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Hospitality and Tourism

Tourism Approaches to Apprenticeships

Report Segment: Apprenticeships

As discussed in the baseline report (2010) of this series, apprenticeships are a very efficient economic tool – offering employers the chance to train up an individual to meet their exact requirements.

However, the tourism sector traditionally has not been the most receptive to apprenticeships. The importance of delivering good customer service as soon as one starts in a front of house role makes some employers opt for safer recruitment practices – taking on students on gaps years for example, rather than risk lowering the customer experience. Perhaps the kitchens of the hospitality sector have been a little more successful in recruiting apprentices, but here too, the pressure to work to exacting deadlines and the unsocial hours have deterred both students and employers from making the most of these opportunities. Chris Coubrough – managing director of the hotel chain Flying Kiwi Inns, laments the lack of vitality and aptitude in apprentices and their failure to visualise a future in this fast paced industry.

Suffolk Food Hall is an exception to this rule (see Suffolk Food Hall (2) segment in this sector).

Oliver Paul’s approach is a rarity and certainly more needs to be done to encourage apprenticeship take-up in other tourism and hospitality businesses. One thought is to relieve the employer of the many potential burdens in the apprenticeship scheme. It involves finding a ‘surrogate’ employer who can take all of the employment responsibilities; businesses then have the option to work with an apprentice on a flexible basis. Apprenticeship Training Associations (ATA’s) do just that. They take responsibility for recruitment and employment during the course of the apprenticeship and the businesses from the sector can make variable commitments to training up the apprentice.

Richard Ellis – Chairman of Norfolk Tourism and a tourism business owner (Norfolk Country Cottages) – can see such schemes going a step further; “why can’t towns take on an apprentice who could then be given the opportunity to work on a range of service sectors”, asks Richard. This would give the apprentice a broad experience of different types of service jobs and allow employers to take on just a small portion of the overall commitment. One could imagine the apprentice working in the local post office on Monday, the hotel on Tuesday, admin at Norfolk Country Cottages on Wednesday, the local pub on Thursday and the catering team at the local school on Friday. Not only do these businesses provide a range of opportunities to learn new skills, and show adaptability but they also work from the perspective of transport: An apprentice from a small market town would be able to do an interesting and varied programme of work all on her doorstep without the need for commuting.

West Suffolk College has set up its own Apprenticeship Training Association (ATA), and has expressed an interest in piloting such a scheme. Working with colleges in their local areas to pilot a number of these cross sector service initiatives could be a good next step.

Although colleges are not the only organisations to set up ATAs it does make sense to work with local FE to find a solution. Colleges have huge resources at their disposal and often have a full range of specialist staff who could support such a cross sector initiative. Moreover, the continuity that colleges offer an apprentice is invaluable – it allows them to think about training progression in a ‘comfortable’ way, knowing the institution they are dealing with and relying on them for planning support.

However there is a role for the private sector in setting up an ATA or a GTA (Group Training Association), especially where one business is a “pace setter” for other smaller businesses. Adnams fits into this mould. With a significant supply chain from across the food sector and its own customer chain of micro businesses running pubs supported by Adnams, the company is in a strong position to set a training standard to which smaller businesses could aspire. This could presumably range from apprenticeship training to workforce development initiatives on a broader scale. Even if a ‘pace setter’ company was reluctant to take on the employment responsibilities of apprentices, this could be done by a college ATA, without affecting the ethos of the scheme. Such training could be branded to reflect the role of the ‘pace setter’ company e.g. The Adnams Training Standard, giving it a business credibility which is sometimes difficult to achieve with purely college based schemes. It could conceivably create a competitive atmosphere around training, as smaller companies vie for a competitive edge – rising to the challenge to develop their staff to the Adnams (or any other willing ‘pace setter’) training brand.