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Does the university crisis represent an opportunity for hospitality?

26 August 2010
Does the university crisis represent an opportunity for hospitality?

Media coverage of the annual A-level results announcement is usually dominated by curmudgeons whingeing that "exams are getting easier" as well as the obligatory photo of attractive twins opening their envelopes.

This year, however, reports have focused on the apparent crisis in university places, with as many as 150,000 students expected to miss out on their chance to take a degree.

With the hospitality industry still facing its perennial skills shortages and the 2012 Olympics looming on the horizon, the university crisis could be the perfect opportunity for operators to fill some gaps, according to Krishnan Doyle, founder of Core Recruitment.

"The hospitality industry has always struggled with its image as a serious employer in the UK - despite the fact that it's the UK's third-largest employer," he said. "There is currently an opportunity for the industry to recruit from a much richer field of A level-educated jobseekers - potentially talented candidates who may not have previously considered the industry."

The success of this will rely on the industry implementing proper training and development programmes to attract, train and retain the best people, Doyle added.

"For small and medium-sized employers without the resource to build training programmes this presents a chance to look at apprenticeship programmes for either front or back of house - where academic qualifications or long experience is rarely expected," he said.

For students, working in hospitality presents an opportunity to gain important life skills in a variety of areas that will benefit them whatever route they eventually take, according to Jane Sunley, chief executive of Learnpurple.


"This industry can be very compelling; a great experience here could mean that hospitality becomes a career choice rather than a stopgap," she said. "Therefore, employers should view these students as a potential long-term prospect and put effort into attracting and then engaging, developing and retaining them."

With colleges suffering the same restrictions as other academic departments, the onus is on operators to take on young people directly and to train them up themselves.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) said that some - particularly those opening new hotels and restaurants - are doing this, but many operators are employing fewer staff because of the recession.

A BHA spokesman said: "Nevertheless, there's a constant need to recruit new people, and we can't be complacent. We need to continue to promote the industry as a dynamic, exciting and totally satisfying career opportunity - which is what it is. And we can't let up on the training we provide."

Hotel and restaurant business Whitbread said that it does all it can to attract and take on the best talent in the sector. In March 2009 it launched a six-month apprenticeship programme called the Whitbread Model, believed to be the largest employer-led programme of its kind in the hospitality industry.

"Our aim is to build the best large-scale hospitality brands in the world by becoming the most customer-focused organisation there is. Anywhere. One of the ways that we can achieve this is by employing the right people," explained a spokeswoman.

A-level results are increasingly good - but they don't guarantee a university place


â- Advertise. It's a great way of attracting applications from your current customer base - you know they like the product.
â- Look at your part-time workforce. A large number of the individuals working weekend shifts will be interested in permanent roles within the business.
â- Showcase the business. Careers fairs and presentations in education facilities are a good way for employers to promote a businesses to potential employees.
â- Consult a specialist. Consider using a recruitment specialist to host recruitment open days and create your employer brand.

Source: Core Recruitment

E-mail your comments to James Stagg here.

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