Working Together to Promote a Career in Hospitality

The British Hospitality Association’s Chief Executive Ufi Ibrahim writes for On-Trade Progress:

If you go to other countries in Europe, young people talk proudly of their ambition to be an astronaut, a banker, a lawyer – and a bar manager. The last of those career choices has a social cachet as high as the previous three – a smart job worth attaining and a job which your peer group admire.

We at the British Hospitality Association are aware that if you ask young people in the UK “what do you want to be” it is unlikely that having a job in the hospitality industry will be on the top of their list. Or even on their list at all.

The vote for Brexit will inevitably lead to fewer EU people being allowed to work here and that will hit hospitality especially hard. A KPMG report, commissioned by the BHA, earlier this year showed that at least 60,000 new workers are needed every 12 months just to stay where we are.

We are working on a ten-year plan to encourage more UK workers and we believe it will take that time, much more than the government thinks, especially as our country has currently got record numbers of employment. This comes at a time when other costs – wages, auto enrolment and raw materials are on the increase.

We are going to have to change the perception of the hospitality and tourism industry and we will have to start in schools. We need to boost the value of vocational education for the hospitality industry by putting it in the vanguard of the roll-out of the new ‘T’ Level alternative to ‘A’ Levels (in England), reforming the Apprentice Levy and facilitating the development of Degree Apprenticeships to build Hospitality Centres of Excellence to rival those in continental Europe. It is vital that catering and hospitality are included in the first round of T levels development. That needs a change in the government’s plans.

The BHA and the Springboard organisation launched The Big Hospitality Conversation in 2013 and, in partnership with staff from Job Centres Plus, have held more than 40 events throughout the UK. We intend using the BHC campaign as the basis for our more intensive 10-year campaign and we believe senior JCP staff could be seconded to it. Such secondments should be used as valuable management development opportunities and would greatly help the industry in constructing campaigns and programmes designed to attract some of the ‘harder to place’ populations such as the long – term unemployed and people recovering from periods of ill health. Whilst it will be the ambition of the campaign to involve MPs, mayors and councillors, particular help is sought from the Department for Business to ensure that all Local Enterprise Partnerships include Hospitality and Tourism in their strategic plans.

The purpose of all this campaigning is to raise the profile of the sector and showcase it in the most dynamic way. But the national campaign is not a recruitment agency and the accountability for securing the right workforce for a business will always rest with the business. We want (and need) to bring new people into our industry but each centre will have to manage its way through a situation in which some businesses find it easier to attract and retain people than some others

We foresee the Migration Advisory Committee running an annual consultation exercise with businesses and other stakeholders to determine the number of work permits to be granted. If our national campaign is successful, we should see a steady year on year decrease in the number of permits issued. And in time, when asked what they want to be, a young Briton will say: I want to be a bar manager.