Hospitality is the UK's fourth-largest employer, and has been growing faster than any other sector since the 2008 recession. But despite the ample career opportunities, a skills shortage remains.
Misconceptions about apprenticeships and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last year may be playing a part. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show there is currently a gap of over £1b between the apprenticeship levy that has been collected by HMRC and how much of that money is returned to businesses to invest in apprenticeship programmes. It would seem that some employers don't fully understand how the levy system works, and are therefore missing out on substantial training funds.
Despite some perceived negatives, training programmes that are funded by the apprenticeship levy offer numerous benefits to businesses.
Since the introduction of the apprenticeship standards in 2016, training has become more relevant and rigorous than ever. As anticipated, apprentices are going on to successful, long-term careers and an increasing number are doing higher-level apprenticeships - long gone are the days when apprenticeships were just for school leavers.
Better-skilled staff with a thorough understanding of their role and the right behaviours to exercise those skills are a huge asset to businesses. Some 80% of employers say that apprenticeship training has increased their staff retention rate, and 72% report a direct increase in productivity of £214 per week from employing an apprentice. At HIT, our hospitality clients applaud apprenticeships as an excellent way to upskill staff while also recruiting and retaining top talent.
Three ways to put together a robust training programme
Choose the right training partner
•Look at a training provider's completion rates for the subject that suits your needs. Information can be found on the government website.
•All training providers with government contracts are subject to regular Ofsted inspections, providing an independent view of the effectiveness of the training as well as quality. These are available online.
•If your business has outlets across the country, finding a training provider with the ability to deliver apprenticeships nationwide will help to deliver a consistent quality of training. That way, multi-site employers can work with just one specialist training provider and one point of contact. Also consider a provider's specialism in a particular sector to ensure the training that your employees receive is the most relevant to your particular niche in hospitality.
Take advantage of the funds available
•The apprenticeship levy was introduced last year. In a nutshell, the levy requires all companies with a wages bill of more than £3m to contribute 0.5% of their payroll costs to the scheme, which they then claim back for training (and also receive a further 10% top-up from the government). Businesses with a wage bill below £3m don't have to pay into the apprenticeship fund but they still have access to government subsidies that cover 90% of the cost (the employer has to stump up the remaining 10%).
•Large employers can transfer 10% of their levy payments to another organisation registered with the apprenticeship service. This means that levy-paying employers can work with another employer to help them take on apprentices, increasing the skills base in their supply chain, sector, favoured charity or local area - and helping to professionalise the industry as a whole.
Be clear about your goals
•Before embarking on an apprenticeship scheme, you need to be clear about your training goals. For example, do you want to plug a skills gap or to train existing members of staff to move up the management structure? You can work with your training provider to outline how you want your apprenticeship programme to achieve â¨these goals, ensuring you invest in the right scheme for your business.
Jill Whittaker is managing director at HIT Training
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