Speakers at the event, which is part of National Apprenticeship Week, highlighted the wealth of opportunities pubs can offer ambitious trainees and emphasised that taking the apprentice route would help them avoid the huge debts associated with studying for a degree.
'Reality is different'
However, to attract people to take up apprenticeships, the industry has to tackle negative perceptions.
“There’s the perception that it is long hours and poor pay, and poor customer service. None of that is true the reality is so different,” said David Hoyle, people director at Fuller's. “The training and development opportunities for people that want to join the hospitality industry are vast and there’s rapid progression.”
Industry with a broad reach
The hospitality industry employs twice as many people as financial services, and is larger than the pharmaceutical, automotive and aerospace industries combined.
Stonegate chairman Ian Payne said: “Because we’re fragmented I think those facts often get overlooked, but I’m delighted we’ve now formed a new trade association UKHospitality, which is specifically designed to raise the profile of our industry in the minds of both Government and policy makers.”
Commenting on the 30 employers at the event, Hoyle said: “All of the businesses here will have people in their early-20s running significant businesses or as head chefs in pubs whose careers have had a meteoric rise. There’s very few industries that can match that.”
Call to action
He called on apprentices, parents of apprentices, politicians and the pub industry itself to challenge negative perceptions and encourage more people to take up apprenticeships in the sector.
He said that Fuller's wants to deliver “even more apprenticeships”, so the employer is working with schools and colleges to attract others into the industry. “It makes clear commercial sense to do it. We have a recruitment crisis in our industry, particularly around chefs, why would we not develop our own talent?” Hoyle said.
Industry perceptions are one hurdle pub employers face but another centres on bias against apprenticeships in favour of a university education.
Experience with fine employers
Andrew Griffiths, Minister for Small Businesses, said he hadn’t gone to university as he assured the apprentices present that they “could achieve even more than I have achieved because that experience you’re getting with some of the finest employers across the country is so so important”.
He acknowledged parents may have concerns but speaking to the audience of employers and apprentices he said: “I think what you all recognise is that [hospitality and pubs] is a highly trained, highly skilled, very fast-moving industry that has really great potential as a career and a really great opportunity for people to earn well and have a really fulfilling career.”
He praised sector employers for investing in quality training and improving standards.
No degree debt
Stonegate Pub Company chairman Ian Payne said that he “didn’t go to university either” and had started his working life in a bar. “I strongly believe in this industry and its ability to develop people,” he said.
“My message is clear, you don’t have to go to university to build a meaningful career in hospitality. Apprenticeships offer an equally valuable pathway to success and you don’t end up with a £60,000, £70,000 or £80,000 debt before you even start. We pay [apprentices] from the start.”
The sentiment that there is “too much focus on university education” was restated by Kris Gumbrell, executive chairman of Brewhouse & Kitchen. He said the industry needs to break down barriers and “go out and there and we really engage” with potential recruits.
As a brewpub group, Brewhouse & Kitchen needs to recruit brewers, he said. “We’ve got a brewing heritage in this country but what was staggering when we started to realise that we needed this pipeline of people was that there wasn’t a credible brewing apprenticeship in the UK.”
IFA approves brewing apprenticeship
Gumbrell said developing a brewing apprenticeship had been “a necessity” for them but, he added, that there has been “amazing support from the British Beer & Pub Association”.
He credited all those involved in agreeing the Brewing Level 4 Apprenticeship programme, from large brewers including Heineken, Fuller's and Molson Coors and Greene King to smaller, one-person brewers, literally brewing in their sheds.
He said: “By focusing on the purpose and end goal of getting a credible apprenticeship in place, I’m pleased to announce that the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) have approved our apprenticeship in the past seven days,” he said. "We're finalising the financing and hope to be introducing it in late spring, early summer."
Teacher and Great British Bake Off 2016 winner Candice Brown, who also attended the event, grew up helping out at her parents’ pubs and said: “Events like this are so important because, as a teacher, I know university isn’t for everybody.
“Schools should be doing more to push people down [the apprenticeship] path. The hospitality sector is becoming more prevalent and more open to everybody. People enjoy food and drink and it is an amazing area to get into.”