Brian Wisdom, chief executive of Sector Skills Council People 1st, says the findings of its "State of the Nation" report highlight some worrying trends in hospitality.
Hospitality businesses that follow strategic recruitment and training practices have the best chance of leading the sector out of recession. There are opportunities right now to recruit a higher-quality workforce and train them to stay.
But while 25% of the 1,300 employers we questioned are seeing the opportunity and increasing training investment, a worrying 51% are planning to cut back training (see analysis on page 10). More than a third still do not invest in training at all, in spite of evidence that they are two-and-a-half times more likely to go bust than businesses that do.
Demand for jobs in the sector has more than doubled, enabling businesses to recruit better-qualified staff. Companies who are recruiting because of normal turnover and seasonal openings can be more discriminating and add skills to their workforce while training for recovery.
The report also shows how Government funding can be applied by enlightened firms. We are highlighting how employers are re-appraising the value of apprenticeships as a cost-effective way to invest in their future workforce.
With a return on investment in little over a year, more than three-quarters of employers believe apprentices make them more competitive, while 76% say that apprentices provide higher overall productivity. Moreover, a staggering proportion (80%) feel that apprenticeships reduce staff turnover.
Also, industry qualifications are becoming increasingly important to employers, with more than half (53%) placing more value on them as a means of selecting job applicants.
Overall, qualification levels have risen over the past five years, with the proportion of the workforce with at least a Level 2 qualification (equivalent to GCSE A* to C) rising from 60% in 2003-04 to 64% in 2007-08.
Those businesses that ride out the current economic storm will have a range and flexibility of skills. This is certainly not the time to reduce funding for training; rather it's an opportunity to look afresh at what training you are doing, how you are doing it and where to find the help you need to get your business ready for recovery.
See also our news analysis, Can hospitality business afford to cut training spend?