With the future of the UK uncertain, we must do all we can to ensure our position as a globally competitive nation, says Inderneel Singh
The journey towards Brexit has been described as a rollercoaster ride full of thrills and spills, but as the adrenaline continues to course through the veins of those on both sides, the scheduled date to leave gets ever closer. With fewer than 12 months to go until the UK is set to extricate itself from the EU, there continues to be a lack of clarity about what it means for businesses across the country. Unless this changes, there is a real risk the historically consistent growth of the hospitality industry will be weakened.
As the UK prepares to transition away from the EU, there are three things to address to ensure that we remain a globally competitive nation.
First, we must get better at training those who want to work in our industry. Restrictions on the freedom of movement will have a significant impact on the UK's ability to retain top talent. It has already been widely reported that there will be a notable skills and recruitment gap following Brexit. It is vital that as an industry we support our people with relevant, practical training. While there are some first-rate hospitality training colleges operating in the UK who are producing great entry-level candidates, they compete with the likes of Les Roches and Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, who are able to offer access to a much broader marketplace.
Second, we should be working harder to create partnerships within the sector. Our industry is Britain's third-largest private sector employer and businesses themselves have a key part to play in growing the skills of the workforce so that they are trained for future roles. But they cannot do it alone.
In 2016, Edwardian Hotels London committed to a 10-year partnership with Imperial College London Business School to develop the hospitality leaders of tomorrow. It combines with our membership to the 5% Club and existing apprenticeship programme. We also believe that students should be offered much more practical experience, focusing on service excellence, so they get a real feel for the industry.
Each year we induct a minimum of 30 graduates to our 18-month programme, where they gain experience across areas of the business including front office, kitchen, food and beverage and housekeeping. In addition, we need clear support from the government through offering more incentive-led schemes to enable those who have been long-term unemployed or on a career break to return to work.
Third, we must improve the industry's reputation. We have to address the misconception that it is only made up of long hours and low pay; rather, we should promote the potential for a fulfilling, sustainable and long-term career. At Edwardian Hotels London, we have some hosts who have been with us for decades and we work hard to promote these success stories. Finally, as an industry we must commit to offering more flexible working practices, such as part-time or job-share options.
The clock continues to count down with ongoing uncertainty. There is no value in speculating about what may on the horizon; but the hospitality industry needs reassurance from central government that it will protect the UK's international reputation as dynamic and welcoming.
Inderneel Singh is the managing director of the May Fair hotel
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