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Viewpoint: Hoteliers must join forces in embracing apprenticeships

10 April 2015

A business flourishes by investing in staff, says Serena von der Heyde, owner and general manager of the Georgian House hotel in London

As we gear up for the new financial year at the Georgian House, I'm very clear on where my focus will lie throughout 2015. It's clearer now than ever that the growth and success of my business is wholly dependent on the charisma and skills of my team and it is my responsibility as a business owner and general manager to invest in their ongoing development and career happiness.

I'm pleased that my local MP for London and Westminster, Mark Field, is a firm believer in my approach too. We met up last month when I invited him to the Georgian House for breakfast and it was encouraging to hear him empathise with my ambitions for progression. Equally he seemed to share my frustrations at the systems and legislation hampering the speed of that growth, as we talked about everything from the benefits of reduced VAT on accommodation to the challenges of trying to motivate apathetic school leavers with workplace apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are part of the long-term answer to our staffing needs. They alone won't fuel our industry, but they're a good place to start and I'd really like to encourage hoteliers to realise, celebrate and nurture the talent within their own neighbourhoods by working in partnership with hotels near their own.

Joining venue and destination marketing consortia is a great way to make connections and enjoy structured marketing communications programmes to targeted audiences. We belong to a local forum of hotels, SW1 Hospitality Forum, to share experiences and help each other, and our training isn't done solely on-site either.

There are great opportunities for hospitality businesses to work together on training too and attitudes have changed hugely over the years to make this happen. One of our housekeepers is working with a group from Lancaster London to complete her NVQ level 5 and we offer our staff work placements at other hotels across the UK so they can learn and broaden their skills.

In return, we host visiting staff from other organisations and it is proving to be a fantastic motivator for my team and others as they take inspiration and hands-on experience back to their own workplace.

With the recent announcement of the budget also came details of the Government's proposed apprenticeship voucher scheme. At first sight of the initiative I am optimistic that the new scheme will give employers more options, while simplifying the process of recruiting an apprentice. I just hope it won't be wrapped in red tape and end up becoming an administrative burden for business owners.

Whether government initiatives to support apprentices take hold or not, I really feel it's important we continue investing in young people to ensure we have a constant stream of inspired and qualified individuals entering the workforce. It's this fresh blood filled with vigour and an eagerness to succeed that propels our industry forward.

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