Hospitality is currently facing its worst ever recruitment crisis, with job vacancies rising in the sector by almost 700% from November 2021 to January 2022 against the same period a year ago, with around 178,000 positions vacant in accommodation and foodservice activities. The need for young people in the sector is now more pressing than ever.
Katie Oliver, a 17-year-old senior chef production level three apprentice at the New Inn, Middleton Cheney, Northamptonshire, believed the apprenticeship gave practical experience that could not be taught at school.
Oliver, who begun the apprenticeship in August 2021, wanted to stay in the industry. Her goal was to progress to bigger restaurants before potentially working abroad. She believed schools pushed university onto pupils, meaning they often didn’t consider a career in hospitality as an option.
She also thought job roles were not advertised to young people enough, despite the industry’s staff shortage. Social media could be used to help advertise the sector to young people, and schools could also talk about careers in hospitality to the students, according to Oliver.
Apprentices Emily Gardyne, 22, Amy Curran, 23, and Alex Clitherow, 24, at the Jovial Sailor in Woking, Surrey, also gave their two cents on why young people might avoid the hospitality industry.
Breaking the stereotypes
The three agreed low-wages put people off. According to Gardyne, a level three hospitality supervisor apprentice, there was a stereotype that working in a pub meant you didn’t really want to do anything with your life.
“People think because it’s often a low paying job, it is also a low skilled job,” she said. “However, it isn’t low skilled whatsoever. It’s really mentally and physically draining. It’s really tough”.
Clitherow, who was training for a level three hospitality team member apprenticeship, believed working in hospitality to be a “big commitment”, as you often had to sacrifice weekends and evenings. “Considering the low pay, many view this as not worth it,” he commented.
Clitherow said operators needed to make it clear to young people how they could progress. “A lot of people get put off by the thought of being paid minimum wage and unable to move forwards,” he said, “but, if it’s shown that you can progress, that’s appealing to people who don’t want to get stuck.”
Indeed, four out of five (79%) of operators have increased pay rates for staff to improve recruitment and retention, according to the latest UKHospitality and CGA Future Shock Report.
In the apprenticeship, the trio learnt about a range of topics from alcohol law to discrimination; from cash handling to managing complaints. “It’s not just to do with hospitality- it’s how to run a business,” said Gardyne.
“These are transferable skills that look great if you’re going into other industries,” Curran agreed. “If you’ve got the managerial skills on your CV, that looks really good, no matter where you go from now.”
Grace Hawksley, chef apprentice at Gravetye Manor, East Grinstead, West Sussex, completed a level two qualification before moving on to a level three for another year.
“For me, practical is the way to go,” said the 19-year-old. “If you sit me down in a classroom and say, ‘this is how you cook a steak’, there's no way I’m going to learn how to do that.
“I decided to become a chef because I really love food and what it brings to people, and the feeling you get when you sit with everyone around the table.”
According to Hawksley, young people were put off hospitality as it was too much like hard work. “You’re working such ridiculous hours four or five days a week. You often have to work weekends, and you have to start from the bottom.
“Doing things like spending six hours peeling potatoes can seem very one dimensional if you don't see your progression.”
While Hawksley thought people’s misgivings about the long hours were justified, she also thought TV programmes like Hell’s Kitchen, through focusing on stressful environments, created a false impression of what working in a kitchen was like.
“Where I am, it’s so calm. Nobody ever shouts,” she said. While there were problems, Hawksley said they were dealt with in a rational way.
She advised young people looking to work in hospitality not to give up after the first hurdle. “Be prepared to work hard, because it’s very rewarding,” she concluded.