If we don't portray the hospitality sector to school pupils as vibrant, diverse and creative, we will face a recruitment crisis, says Andrew Boer
It's never a great time to hear your chosen profession is widely regarded as a poor choice, but to hear that a third of parents actively discourage their children from working in the hospitality industry (The Caterer 23 August), just before a busy Bank Holiday weekend, is exceptionally dispiriting.
The Best Western Careers Index of more than 1,000 parents found that only 17% viewed a career in hospitality positively when thinking about their children. And who can blame them?
Issues such as long working hours and low remuneration feature high on the list of disincentives. And let's face it, our presence on television is often dominated by programmes that focus on the amateur, comical or abusive nature of the industry.
At the same time, in my role as principal of the Edge Hotel School, over the past eight months I have attended numerous meetings, gatherings and conferences at which the consistent concern has been the dwindling resource of staff to sustain hospitality in the future.
While I appreciate the great work that the British Hospitality Association, the Institute of Hospitality and bodies such as Springboard and the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts do in representing hospitality to the next generation, the Edge Hotel School felt it should take be proactive in identifying and developing talent, while putting out a positive message about the benefits of working in our amazing industry.
At the Edge Hotel School, it has long been our view that higher education should play a more active role in supporting hospitality.
After all, in delivering vocationally relevant qualifications, we should be among the most enthusiastic advocates about the fantastic careers we are preparing our students for. To this end, we have launched our Inspiring Hospitality Careers initiative.
Through our partners at the Edge Foundation, we have raised £100,000 to support a one-year project that encourages school pupils and their parents to consider the hospitality industry when looking for a vibrant and rewarding career. We'll be honest about some of the shortcomings, but emphasise the huge amount of positives that come with a career. We will also be working with regional businesses to emphasis the diverse nature of our industry to the next generation of potential employees.
In particular, we feel that we need to portray hospitality to school pupils as vibrant, positive and creative, as a place where talent is nurtured and valued by both large and small organisations, and where hard work and motivation can take you a long way in a short time.
Perhaps a solution to our recruitment issues is not just to rely on the efforts of larger organisations and associations, but to actively get out there ourselves, at a grass-roots level, and continue to spread the word about what an amazing industry this is to work in.
Andrew Boer is principal of the Edge Hotel School