Let's make a career in hospitality something to be proud of

By Mark Baird

- Last updated on GMT

Diageo's Learning for Life initiative is changing perceptions of hospitality careers
Diageo's Learning for Life initiative is changing perceptions of hospitality careers

Related tags Young people Employment

Hospitality in the UK is too often seen as an industry that provides millions of jobs but few careers. As an industry, it is in our interests to change that perception, says Mark Baird, head of alcohol in society at Diageo GB.

I spend a lot of time meeting with pub, bar and hotel owners and understanding their concerns and issues. One of these – articulated eloquently by licensee Karen Errington​ recently – is the attitude that many people seem to have towards hospitality work.

Why is it that people, inside and outside the industry, view this type of work as perfect for gap years or student summer holidays? Why are these jobs seen as disposable, or stop gaps? Can we as an industry really be offering the best possible service to customers with a staff that has one eye on the job and one on the job pages?

Are we not underselling the opportunity that a career in hospitality, of becoming a bartender, represents?

Learning for Life

Last year, Diageo brought its Learning for Life initiative to the UK. It aims to equip unemployed young people, often from challenging backgrounds, with the skills and opportunities to find employment in the hospitality industry. More than 300 young people have graduated from the scheme and I’m so proud to say that 75% of them found work immediately after.

At a time of high youth unemployment, this couldn’t be more important.

As the first cohort of students of the London pilot of Learning for Life graduated last month​, it’s crucial to remind them and others working in the industry or looking to enter the industry, that when young people take a job pulling pints, and serving cocktails that it is not the end of the training – in many ways it is the beginning!

These are jobs which teach people vital life skills. Yes, confidence, self-sufficiency, time-management, one to one communication and how to manage customers are all important. But it’s also a way for young people to get to understand how a small business runs.

These are jobs where, through hard work and professionalism, real management opportunities emerge. People learn finance, book balancing, how to manage a team, how to deal with suppliers.

In other words, a job in a pub can be the first step in a wider business education that can give young people the skills they need to build a career or perhaps even go on to run their own business. And there is no reason why that career or business shouldn’t be in the hospitality industry.


In many other countries that I have visited, a career in hospitality is something to be proud of. Here, for reasons outlined above, it is less so. And yet ours is the most entrepreneurial, the most exciting and rewarding industry that there is! In hospitality if you work hard and learn your trade you can make yourself a success.

We’ve all seen it and enjoyed it. Neighbourhood pubs transformed and made successful by energetic new ownership and creativity. Pop-up restaurants serving delicious food. Ambitious bartenders serving exciting cocktails that put their establishment on the map.

The successes in our industry are some of the most vibrant successes in the country – and yet our industry remains one of the most accessible for people of any background, anywhere in the country.

Let’s be proud of that – tell more people about it – and help those who are interested to make a career and a name for themselves.

For more information visit the Learning for Life website.

Case study - Tom, 24, from Hounslow

Tom has been unemployed since September 2014, having left his last job at a pharmaceutical company due to stress as well as delivering pizzas and providing security at Heathrow airport prior to this. He felt that none of his prior jobs had inspired him, and he had been interested in working in a pub or bar due to his passion for music and his long term ambition to open up a live music venue bar to give London musicians a platform.


Tom found out about the Learning for Life course whilst doing work experience at Ealing Job Centre. Two weeks into his placement the Springboard staff came in to interview candidates for the scheme. Although Tom was not on the list of interviewees he asked if the team would consider interviewing him as well. He came across really well and the team quickly realised he was a great candidate for the course.

Tom completed his work placement at the Lord Wargrave pub on Edgware Road, part of Urban Pubs and Bars Group. The General Manager at the Lord Walgrave has described Tom as keen, willing to learn and a pleasure to work with.

Tom said: “When you are a customer in a pub or restaurant you don’t appreciate how much work goes on behind the bar and all the skills required to work there. I have loved the course – learning how to pour a perfect pint of Guinness and make the perfect Gin and Tonic, as well as dealing with real customers on my work placement.

“I think the hospitality industry is a great career option for me – you can progress quicker and there are more opportunities than in a lot of other industries. I’ve got a much clearer picture of where life could take me having completed the course.”

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails Training

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