The Big Hospitality Conversation – now it’s time for action

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Written by Jeremy Scorer on 14 May 2014
The second day of Hotelympia 2014 (28th April – 1st May 2014), the UK’s largest foodservice and hospitality exhibition, saw a number of events specifically targeted at promoting work experience, apprenticeships and careers for 16- to 24 year-olds. I was particularly interested by an update session on the ‘Big Hospitality Conversation’. 
This initiative is a joint venture between the Prince of Wales Trust, British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Springboard UK launched in 2012. The main thrust of the campaign is to engage with both employers and young people to help get the latter into careers in the hospitality industry. At a special seminar session, it was this challenge that The Big Hospitality Conversation’s founders were keen to focus on as well as highlight the current achievements of the campaign. 
The session also reinforced worrying research which indicates that 300,000 new jobs will be needed to support sector growth by 2020, a large number and one for which both providers and employers need to be prepared. In the words of BHA’s chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim, the hospitality industry “is up against the clock to find enough people to be able to support growth”
No truer words have been spoken, and it is vital to the future of both the hospitality and other UK industries that companies engage with 16- to 24 year-olds from the SMEs and independent businesses right through to the big corporations. Amongst all the case studies presented throughout the Big Hospitality Conversation session, the most impressive was from Whitbread’s Patrick Dempsey, who is working with Princes Trust and Job Centre Plus to offer more careers to this age group at Premier Inns. With 750 young people already on board it’s a real success story and a great example of a company grabbing the bull-by-the-horns and leading the way. 
Employers (of any scale) should take note of such examples quickly and look at ways in which they can make their businesses work to encourage more young people to undertake training and apprenticeship programmes while offering the real potential for a secure and successful future within their company. This point is especially important in consideration of the current policy changes to the framework of training provision. Employers will now need to communicate directly with young people and appeal to their interests to get them onto their career pathway. 
In its second year, The Big Hospitality Conversation has been partially successful in securing its aim to help fulfil the 300,000 employee target and motivate the hospitality industry to take action. So far it has secured 34,000 pledges from businesses to take on more young people and offer bespoke skills and training-supported career paths or sophisticated work experience programmes. 
The Big Hospitality Conversation can only do so much. Pledges are one thing, putting them into practice is quite another, and until the training and apprenticeship programmes are developed and implemented there is little value in these agreements.
With the ball now firmly in the employer’s court our industry need to get cracking, the tools and funding are all there. This not only applies for hospitality but the whole breadth of UK business. Businesses need to engage with providers to develop new programmes and courses to attract young people - something that has been a challenge in the past for some businesses who find it hard to sell themselves to 16- to 24 year-olds. 
The rhetoric is strong but, to use an old cliché, the industry needs to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. I look forward to playing my part in my role at Charnwood Training to help meet the 2020’s 300,000 target.  
About the author
Jeremy Scorer is managing partner at Charnwood Training. He can be contacted via

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