Hoteliers should take work experience seriously, says Francis Young, proprietor of the Pear Tree at Purton hotel in Wiltshire, in the second of our series of opinions from the Master Innholders
What image does the phrase "work experience" conjure for you? A couple of gormless spotty youths who have no interest in a career in the industry? Unfortunately, this is the case for many hoteliers, but it is a view we take at our peril.
My first experience of working in the industry was a summer job at a hotel in Norfolk. I was working as a night porter at the tender age of 17, and the only other night porter dropped dead in the middle of the night. It didn't put me off - in fact, the story has proved to be a great one to tell at dinner parties. But how many others - many potential excellent hoteliers - are being lost before they have even started because of a bad experience?
There are four main problems with work experience in hotels: parents aren't keen on it - their perception of working in the industry is unsocial hours and poor pay (the usual suspects from circa 1960) teachers aren't keen on it for the same reason hoteliers aren't keen on it because of the perception mentioned at the beginning and in many cases the work experience is actually a waste of time - reinforcing the negative stereotypes.
But not all hotel work experience is rubbish there are some beacons of excellent practice. So we decided to take these beacons of excellence and make them an industry standard. The plan was to produce a kit for work experience that all hotels - large or small, five-star, one-star or even no star - could use.
Springboard, with backing from the Savoy Educational Trust and the Worshipful Company of Innholders, was given the remit to produce a workable kit.
The original concept has come on quite a way. There are now four kits: taster days for teachers, journalists and parents one- and two-week year 10 school work placements extended work placements for further education and 48-week university placements.
The final kits were launched at last week's Hotel General Managers Conference. Just about every Master Innholder and St Julian Scholar has already committed, and many of the larger groups are already on board. Are you?
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