Pubs are ‘own worst enemy’ when recruiting teens

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Talk about positives: pubs should be better advocates for the benefits of both part time work and careers in the trade
Talk about positives: pubs should be better advocates for the benefits of both part time work and careers in the trade

Related tags: Recruitment, Young people

Pubs should work with schools and offer more work experience opportunities to encourage more teenagers into the trade, industry bosses have said.

Their recommendations came as figures from the Resolution Foundation revealed the number of working teenagers has almost halved in the past 20 years.

A report by the think-tank said a quarter of 16 and 17-year-olds were in work between 2017 and 2019, compared to 48% in 1997-99.

It suggested young people were prioritising their exam studies in their spare time rather taking up a part-time job as a reason for this drop-off.

The pub sector should shout about the benefits of working in the trade – both as a part-time job and as a career – according to Jill Whittaker, director of training provider HIT.

The organisation’s research found 45% of young people who had had a positive work experience in a pub or bar were influenced to move into the sector eventually.

Self-fulfilling prophecy 

Whittaker said: “An awful lot of pubs don't engage with the local schools to offer work experience to pupils.

“Therefore, we have a self-fulfilling prophecy that people fall into our industry by accident often because they have never really had the opportunity to have a go or see what it might be like to work there.”

The four-strong Bath Pub Company has not experienced a decrease in teenagers wanting to work for it but director Joe Cussens suggested increased regulations may have dissuaded some employers.

“My first job was as a kitchen porter aged 14 in a hotel and it taught me an awful lot, but you would never see that nowadays, or it would be very rare,” he said.

Cussens said young staff at his company learned many life skills that supplemented their studies in preparing them for life after school or college.

He said: “We see people go through a journey. Front of house is a great way to gain confidence. we see people coming in who to begin with are very shy and nervous, which is understandable, and they come out of it and have learnt confidence.”

Fun industry

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the sector needed to shout louder about the positives of pub work and shift negative perceptions of working in hospitality. 

She said: “We need to be vocal, not only about the opportunities we provide, but also how we believe this is the best sector in which to work. This is a fun, sociable industry with a chance to interact and have fun on the job. 

“The nature of hospitality means that it is tailor-made for those looking to fit work around their studies and we should be letting people know.”

The flexible nature of a part-time pub job should be highlighted more, according to Whittaker.

She said: “Job sharing is something that hasn't particularly ever taken off in the pub sector except if you look at the way it works, actually everyone is job sharing – working shifts, swapping over and doing transfers. It’s the norm. 

“We are our own worst enemy, we don’t talk about all the positives that can come out of that.”

Related topics: Training

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