The Caterer and Hotelkeeper interview – Anne Pierce

18 July 2012 by
The Caterer and Hotelkeeper interview – Anne Pierce

Anne Pierce, chief executive of Springboard and winner of the Special Award at the 2008 Cateys, tells Mark Lewis why Springboard is supporting Caterer and Hotelkeeper‘s Think Again campaign, and why it is essential for more employers to work as ambassadors of their industry

Give us the elevator pitch for what Springboard is and does. That depends on how tall the building is, and how fast the lift is! There are two elements. The Springboard Charity helps young people achieve their potential by nurturing them into worthwhile and rewarding careers; reduces unemployment by getting jobless people into work; and relieves poverty by helping people overcome barriers to work and into sustainable employment - all within the context of hospitality, leisure and tourism.

Meanwhile, Springboard UK is a not-for-profit training subsidiary that promotes the industry as a great place to work and raises funds for the charity. It does the former by providing a specialist careers advice and guidance service; facilitating quality work experience; providing vocational educational resources to schools; and running programmes that nurture young people into the industry and intensive "Into Work" programmes that support unemployed and disadvantaged people into sustainable jobs.

It does the latter through a variety of fundraising activities and events, ranging from our annual major fundraising event to pub quizzes, and from abseiling down buildings to overseas treks.

Is Springboard's profile in the industry as strong as you would wish? The short answer is no. We've tended to invest resources into rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done rather than shouting from the rooftops about what we do and the impact we have. Last year's 21st anniversary celebrations marked the start of a step change in understanding of what we're all about. We've got a new marketing strategy in place and we're appointing a new marketing communications and PR director. This should strengthen our profile and the industry's understanding of our remit.

Why does hospitality have such a problem with persuading youngsters to seek a career in it? I think we're better than when I joined Springboard 15 years ago. We conducted research with People 1st last December and found that young people are much more positive about entering the industry than they were in 2005. We found that 53% of young people of school leaving age would positively consider a career in hospitality - which is really encouraging when you consider that 82% of young people have not made their mind up about what they want to do when they leave full-time education. All we have to do is work on the 82% to convert half of them into our industry - simple!

I think it's about momentum. Where we get speakers into schools, where we offer great work experience, and where that's backed up by activity to nurture young people into the industry, we succeed in attracting them. But it requires a sustained and long-term effort - this won't happen overnight and ad-hoc, "dip in, dip out" approaches don't work.

We need more operators to get behind our campaigns and we need to train up more ambassadors and get them into schools, colleges and universities. Ambassadors are talent scouts. Football teams have talent scouts, and so should every industry sector. We also need to provide positive role models. Youngsters are not always inspired by the obvious celebrities. They usually quote someone they've been mentored by or managed by.

What are the key contributory factors in a young person's choice of career and what can be done to ensure more of them choose hospitality?

Work experience is far and away the single most important factor influencing career choice. But not all work experience is good; we need to improve the quality, quantity and consistency of it to ensure we convert more recipients. The industry needs to sign up to more work experience placements, but deliver them in a high quality manner - it can influence in the wrong way as well as the right way. You need to allow people to experiment to see if it's right for them - and even if it isn't, leave them with a positive memory.

After work experience, industry presentations and industry visits are the next most important factors, followed by careers web-sites, the media, careers events and careers magazines. Parents are the most influential group, so our activities target changing their hearts and minds, too. We need to have a prominent and active presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, and so on. Still, work experience is the deal-breaker.

Tell us about INSPIRE. INSPIRE is a Quality Mark and work experience programme developed to improve the quality of work experience of any type and provide a framework to guarantee robust, challenging, interesting, worthwhile, work experience.

Evidence has shown that, too often, work experience placements are not as effective as they could be. We have found that employers needed an easy step-by-step guide. INSPIRE supports them through the planning, implementation and follow-up process. We provide the support and quality assurance and promote the standard to schools, colleges and universities.

INSPIRE was originally developed for the hotel sector in collaboration with the Master Innholders and St Julian Scholars and was rapidly developed - with the support of the BHA - for the FSM sector. This year, we are adapting it for use in restaurants as part of our Restaurant Careers Campaign. We are working with the Hospitality Guild to run 5,000 structured work experience places this year and 15,000 next year adhering to the INSPIRE standard. We need to encourage employers across all sectors to adopt the INSPIRE standard.

How can operators support Springboard? You can adopt us as a charity and raise funds for us, or participate in the many and varied fundraising challenges we create. These funds go directly to supporting our beneficiary programmes for young, unemployed and underprivileged people.

On the other hand, operators can become Business Partners of Springboard UK, which is a mutually beneficial relationship. We reach over a million potential recruits and their influencers, process 90,000 careers enquiries and represent the industry at numerous careers events throughout the country, every year. Our Business Partners enjoy increased brand awareness in the labour market and potential labour market, and endorsement by a well-respected third party. We also offer bespoke services to address HR and CSR priorities. And programmes like FutureChef and Summer School provide a pipeline of talent into the industry. A relationship with Springboard UK can provide a tangible return on investment.

And it's not just about operators: suppliers can also get involved by sponsoring events and programmes, providing great brand exposure and messaging to potential clients.

What are your views on apprenticeships? Essential, and a great way to nurture young people into the industry and earn while they learn. Every employer should offer them using local colleges or professional training providers. Some of our great industry leaders came into the industry through the apprenticeship route.

Think Again
Think Again
You're supporting Think Again. Why? Because I believe it will provide a platform to promote wholesale participation in promoting hospitality as a career of choice throughout the industry. Your campaign dovetails perfectly with what we are trying to do and will encourage people to do their bit. It's a fantastic initiative and one we are proud to be a partner of.

What was the Big Conversation all about and is it the start of an ongoing campaign? It is a joint initiative between the BHA, Springboard and Business in the Community to bring together industry leaders, HR directors and young people to stimulate a dialogue on employability skills, work experience and apprenticeships. We hope to encourage employers to sign up to INSPIRE, offer more quality work experiences and apprenticeships, and employ more local people. And we want to signal to Government the significant contribution this industry is playing to stimulate economic recovery, address youth employment and stimulate growth.

Last week's event was the start - we intend to work with the BHA to stage Big Conversations throughout the country and make a significant difference as a result.

If you could ask operators do one thing tomorrow to increase the numbers of people entering the industry, what would it be? Getting behind Think Again and Springboard's careers campaigns, of course. Get ambassadors into schools. Offer quality work experience through INSPIRE. Offer more apprenticeships and more graduate programmes. Support programmes that get unemployed into work. Offer attractive, competitive and visible pay and rewards packages. Sorry, that's more than one thing, I know!

What gets you out of bed in the morning? My husband, Noel, kicking me out… But, seriously, I get incredibly emotional and proud when I see the difference the work we do makes to people's lives, particularly those stories of people who would otherwise have faced a lifetime of unemployment, poverty or hardship. I love working with my incredible team and the wider Springboard family. And I love it when an employer says, "we've got this amazing person who came through a Springboard programme".

Spread the word - sign up to Springboard's Speakers in Schools pledge
Recent research by Springboard shows that industry talks and visits are some of the most important factors influencing career choice.

The charity's Springboard Ambassador Programme trains people who are passionate about the industry and already working in it with the skills they need to deliver vibrant careers presentations, give up-to-date careers advice and tools them with careers materials and inspirational activities to stimulate interest. This is then backed up by visits, show-rounds, have-a-go activities and work experience.

At the moment, Springboard has just over 1,000 ambassadors but wants to increase this dramatically over the next three years so it can get trained speakers into every secondary school.

Employers or individuals can sign up for either an in-company programme or join an open programme. Ambassadors commit to a minimum of three presentations or activities a year - but most do more and some even go on to become Ambassador mentors.

To find out more about getting involved yourself, go to

E-mail your comments to Mark Lewis here.

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