Hospitality employers should follow Travelodge's lead and look to fill skills gaps with the long-term unemployed, argues Grant Hearn, chief executive of the budget hotel chain
In September we opened a £60m 392-bedroom hotel in the City of London. Not only is it our largest ever, it is the biggest budget hotel built in the capital in the past decade.
That, however, is not the only reason City Road is a landmark hotel for Travelodge and this industry. At the official opening I was accompanied by three hotel staff who joined from a new employment partnership scheme that we have recently taken up with JobCentre Plus. This programme helps long-term unemployed people get back to work in a number of ways, including pre-interview training and links to major employers.
Following the pilot scheme at City Road - 25% of the hotel staff joined through this route - I was proud to extend the scheme to the rest of the country. When you see how bright, articulate and enthusiastic these new team members are, you cannot understand how they were unemployed in the first place.
What was interesting on the skills project launch day was that, despite signing up to the scheme alongside companies such as Sainsbury's and Barclays, Travelodge was the first to turn our corporate smiles and handshakes into jobs.
For too long, better-represented industries have received the plaudits from government and the media. In this instance, we have shown that we are the fastest to react. And I say to the rest of you in hospitality: get involved in this scheme and help this industry lead.
Candidates are pre-screened, trained to the employer's specifications at the Government's expense and then, after induction, offered training to cover any perceived gaps. All the employer has to do is guarantee an interview. You have to ask yourself, why wouldn't you get involved?
Contact your local JobCentre Plus for details on the new partnership scheme.
The Department for Work and Pensions' employment agency is operating a partnership scheme with large companies to help long-term unemployed people succeed in the job market