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Age old problem with new ideas, blog by Sam Coulstock FIH

The skills shortage is not new news.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve been talking, worrying and debating where we will find the talent required to grow our sector. Whether it’s chefs, managers or housekeepers – skills have been on the agenda for most hospitality businesses. However, with the Brexit just around the corner, in my opinion, it is now that we are really faced with a crisis.

43% of our hospitality workforce comes from outside of the UK (Fourth Hospitality, 2017). And while this has been talked about and debated since the referendum in June 2016; in our experience, that’s all it’s been – talk.

Our sector requires 60,000 people per year to meet demand. It’s the fourth largest industry in the UK; creating one in six new jobs since 2010. And so, we need less talk and more action. Yes, we, as an industry, need greater support from the Government to help recruit more British workers but, fundamentally, we must start helping ourselves. We must attract our own talent and grow them. We must change perceptions of our sector in our schools, colleges, communities. Quite frankly, we must do more.

For those who know me, attracting talent and changing the perceptions of hospitality has been close to my heart for many years and I’ve continued to fly this flag since joining Umbrella Training. Our vision here is simple – the hospitality sector is seen as an attractive career option for all.  As such, we’ve put the industry at the heart of our business vision and are doing all that we can to change perceptions, attract talent and help

solve the skills shortages.

And we’re proud of all that we’ve achieved in this area. Here’s just some of the things we’re doing:

  • Using the latest technology to our advantage by embracing gamification and virtual reality learning to engage and excite the next generation about our industry – both within our learning programmes and while we are promoting the sector to future talent.
  • Social media – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts aimed at showcasing apprentices to other young people and offering advice to help them take their steps towards a hospitality career.
  • Working with charities including The Clink Charity, The Springboard Charity, Successful Mums, Careers and Enterprise Company and a variety of youth groups to engage with hard to reach groups. This is proving highly successful with many employers now opening doors which, in the past, would have been closed.
  • Using national campaigns, such as our National Apprenticeship Week bus tour, to shout about our industry and the opportunities it presents. Here we can connect directly with the next generation and their teachers / parents / friends to answer questions and tackle the myths around our sector.
  • In partnership with some of the sector’s leading employers, we’ve invested in attending London’s largest recruitment event, Skills London, to showcase hospitality and working hard to change perceptions of the industry and the out-dated views of apprenticeships. This year we won the award for best new stand thanks to our innovative VR Hotel.
  • Educating employers – through our employer board and conference, working with our employer partners to address the challenges faced in terms of talent and action plan new and exciting ways of attracting the right people. Ideas have included better approaches to flexible working and using new technology to help share vacancies.

We know that these approaches are working and can measure the impact it has on both the business, the individual and the wider society.  We’re placing more and more people into apprenticeships every week. However, it takes time, dedication and commitment to do this. Since Brexit, CV’s aren’t flooding into our inboxes anymore. In addition to the activity mentioned before, we’ve also appointed a dedicated Recruitment and Onboarding officer who speaks to possible candidates and employers daily, to make the magic happen.

Employers have a role to play in this too. We need to be quicker in responding to applicants. Regardless of generation, candidates are looking for a quick, swift response; thinking highly of the employer who engages with them quickly and informatively. We also need to be better at showcasing the passion, the progression, the opportunities. With our apprentices, it’s not just about the money – they want a career. They want great training. They want the connection to a culture and values. They want to be part of it. And don’t get me started with the ‘experience’ conversation – “hire the smile and train the talent”, that’s our mantra. Get the right personality and use things like apprenticeships, to train them to be the best that they can be.

Having just finished working on a project with 5-star luxury hotel, we’ve seen first-hand that a few small tweaks to what you do can have a big impact. They’ve made changes to their working hours which has attracted more parents, they are being more responsive to applicant needs – listening and learning before making decisions – and they’re using social media to have conversations. All of which has resulted in them having a greater pool of talent to select from.

We’re a small, family run business and are proud to do our bit to chip away at the skills shortages. But to crack the nut, as they say, everyone in hospitality needs to pull together. As the adage goes, “If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Got”. So, let’s pull out the nutcracker together and break this up as one united force. One voice. One vision. One goal.

Sam Coulstock FIH
Business Relations Director
Umbrella Training & Employment Solutions Ltd

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