Businesses need to engage with the younger generation to bridge the skills gap, advises HIT Training managing director Jill Whittaker
While there are many businesses throughout the hospitality industry which are making changes to address this issue, more needs to be done to bring fresh talent to the sector. It is predicted that between now and 2020 the industry will need to recruit an additional 11,000 chefs, but with so many operators struggling to find candidates, and with the sector continuing to show signs of growth, where are these additional chefs going to come from?
The obvious solution? Our younger generation. As an industry we need to work together to engage with school leavers and highlight the career prospects and benefits of working in hospitality. We are moving into a new era and the age-old industry image of long working hours, low pay and angry head chefs needs to change if we are to bridge the skills gap. Generation Z, or post-millennials, have different values and ways of working compared to those who started their profession 30 years ago, and place high importance on a work-life balance in their careers.
Although we are starting to see changes that reflect this, such as restaurants opening for only four days a week and operators offering more opportunities for training and development, more still needs to be done to connect with school leavers. Whether it's head chefs going into their local schools to talk about careers in hospitality, restaurants and hotels holding open days where pupils can have a behind-the-scenes experience, or individual businesses celebrating the achievements of their apprentices, operators need to invest time and resources in reaching this age group.
National Apprenticeship Week, which took place last month, saw several companies pledging to offer more apprenticeship programmes and some brilliant events highlighting the benefits of apprenticeships. At HIT Training we held the final of our MasterChef competition, which saw apprentices from across the country compete in a live cook-off. While these celebrations and announcements are beneficial to the industry, it is crucial that we go beyond National Apprenticeship Week and implement these types of initiatives all year round. Especially as national research by Not Going to Uni found that 53% of school leavers would not consider doing an apprenticeship.
As we get closer to May, when a new cohort of school leavers will be making big decisions on their future careers, the industry needs to be ready to stand out from the crowd and attract a new generation of culinary stars. The time to make changes is now, before the risk of an increasing skills shortage becomes a reality.
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