Recent comments by footballer turned hotel developer Gary Neville that the loss of European hospitality staff due to Brexit is a "scandal" have been backed up by the principal of one of the UK's leading hotel schools.
Andrew Boer, who heads up the Edge Hotel School, based at the University of Essex campus, said that Neville was right to be concerned that the rhetoric around Brexit was driving young employees back to their home countries and suggested that the hospitality industry could learn something from the way leading football clubs train the future stars of tomorrow.
"As he has recognised, the identification, recruitment, development and retention of home grown talent is of paramount importance to the organisations working in this highly competitive commercial environment," explained Boer.
"Yes, the facilities and surroundings are an important aspect of the overall offering, but often, what makes the whole experience come to life for the customer is the talent and performance of the people who deliver the service. Just one bit of sparkle, one moment of individual inspiration, can transform a monotonous encounter into a highly memorable occasion."
Boer said that it was sad that the hospitality industry lacked the mentality of the footballing world which offers training at the lowest level, supported by work experience opportunities.
"Yes, there are big in-house development programmes in which the largest brands invest, develop and seek to retain their own ‘players'," he added. "But there seems to be very little in the way of grass roots development or localised specialist academics and increasingly limited opportunity for those on academic courses to gain ongoing and realistic practice in their profession."
The Edge Hotel School, which sits alongside the four-AA-star, 40-bedroom Wivenhoe House hotel, where students gain practical work experience, is one of the exceptions, according to Boer.
"We not only require our students to study their profession at degree level, but also to consistently practice and implement their skills in a fully commercial environment, effectively real match play situations.
"Given the examples of football clubs such as Manchester United or Arsenal in developing highly successful talent pipelines through their own specialised academics, perhaps we, in the hospitality industry, might learn to be a bit more open to ideas and approaches that other industries have adopted."
Since retiring as a Manchester United and England player, Neville has entered the world of hotel development alongside his former team mate Ryan Giggs. Through their company GG Hospitality, they launched Hotel Football in 2015 and are currently developing two further hotels in Manchester. A 35-bedroom luxury, boutique hotel will open in the city's former Stock Exchange building next year, while planning permission for a 200-bedroom hotel within the mixed-use St Michael's development is due to be submitted later this month.
Neville and Boer will both be speaking at The Caterer's Hotel Forum on 29 November, when they will be joined by leading operators who will talk about what steps they are taking to attract staff and, in particular, make the hospitality sector an attractive career option among parents and schools.
The Hotel Forum will be held on Wednesday 29 November at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London. To book tickets, visit the Hotel Forum at www.hotel-forum.co.uk.
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