Training and research charity People 1st is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. Managing director Simon Tarr talks to Hannah Thompson about how the industry has changed and explains the issues facing hospitality today
Could you summarise the work of People 1st?
People 1st is the leading skills and workforce development charity for employers in the hospitality, tourism, leisure, travel, passenger transport and retail industries. We focus on transforming skills in through the development of effective recruitment, training and talent management solutions.
How do each of the sections of People 1st fit together?
We all work under the People 1st banner, but our research forms the foundation of our work. We use those insights to help work with employers, to develop products and services that will benefit the industry. We'll also continue to represent our employers' views to government regarding policy.
How has the work of People 1st changed over the past 10 years?
We've always been an employer-led organisation, but in the past when we're had government funding, we've had to take part in government projects and initiatives. Now that we're self-funding, we're able to focus 100% on supporting employers.
What would you say has been the biggest change in the hospitality and tourism industries over the past 10 years?
I'd probably say that it's the investment in training that has taken place. We've seen apprenticeship numbers grow dramatically and employers are now invested in training their staff. Naturally there's still work to do, but what we've seen so far has been a huge shift.
How has the economic climate affected the industries that you work with?
It has been mixed, but for hospitality in particular, we've actually continued to grow. However, the release of the latest employment figures could have a significant impact, as employers face greater competition from other sectors.
What are the biggest issues facing the various industries today?
There has been a lot of focus on recruiting people into the industry at entry levels, but unfortunately there is a lot of drop off around the middle and senior levels of businesses. We need to turn our attention to retaining the right people and developing dedicated staff who can move up into senior positions. Without this, our industry will not be able to compete effectively with other industries as the economy picks up.
What are you most proud of in People 1st's ten-year history?
Two really stand out: the need for a standardised cookery diploma, and customer service. Our work on the Professional Cookery Diploma has had a huge impact on the industry and is now embraced by employers, providers and learners.
The customer service changes we've seen have also been huge; we identified WorldHost as the best programme for our industry, brought it over here from Canada, and adapted it. More than 150,000 people have now trained using this programme, including the London 2012 Olympic Ambassadors. We've now moved up to 9th place in the world for the warmth of our visitor welcome. That's a huge achievement and one I think we're justifiably proud of.
What does People 1st still want to achieve as an organisation?
We want to be recognised as the one stop shop for employers in our industry when it comes to research, developing skills, and supporting the industry's training needs.