Skills strategy a positive step, say employers

15 March 2007
Skills strategy a positive step, say employers

Ten-point plan for England offers hope for solutions to the recruitment problem. Chris Druce reports

The launch of the first National Skills Strategy for tourism and hospitality has been broadly welcomed by employers as a positive step toward solving chronic skills shortages in the industry.

Sector Skills Council People 1st last week unveiled the National Skills Strategy for England, a 10-point action plan intended to tackle the recruitment and retention problems faced by employers.

The initiative, dubbed Raising the Bar, focuses on four key areas: retention, management and leadership, customer service and chef skills.

Mike Burton, human resources director of Compass Group UK & Ireland, said that the company welcomed both the direction and intent of the strategy. "The hospitality sector is one of the world's fastest-growing industries," he said, "but huge problems still exist in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce."

Nick Varney, chief executive of leisure operator Merlin Entertainment, agreed. He said: "Two enduring things in this industry are: high staff turnover, which affects the ability to deliver a consistent brand experience, harming business and the fact that not enough people see our growing industry as somewhere to build their careers. This strategy should help."

However, Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, warned that a long list of ill-conceived qualifications and education initiatives over the past 20 years had left employers confused and, in some cases, indifferent.

"People 1st really has the most fearsome promotional battle on its hands here," he said. "For the strategy to succeed, the industry must co-operate, support and partner these new developments."

Cotton also called for emphasis to be placed on training for profit, rather than the productivity the strategy currently espouses, to combat apathy.

Staff turnover costs the hospitality and tourism sector nearly £900m a year and loses it 600,000 people, according to People 1st research. It predicts that labour turnover will cost the industry £6.2b by 2012, and 4.1 million people will have been both recruited and lost if nothing is done by then.

At some time in April, People 1st will hold a brief consultation on the strategy document, ahead of bringing together bespoke action plans for the other home nations with the goal of creating a signal UK National Skills Agreement.

You can visit the People 1st website ( call 0870 060 2550 to get involved.

Ten ways to address the skills crisis

1. A single communication channel

2. Management and leadership

3. Qualifications and funding

4. Supporting small businesses

5. A customer service campaign

6. A standard for training chefs

7. Industry code of practice

8. World class skills delivery

9. Attracting high quality people

10. Broadening the appeal of the sector

Source: People 1st

View more on skills here >>

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