How apprenticeships can help hospitality industry recovery

10.5 mins

To say the hospitality industry has been hit hard the last few years is an understatement. It’s been put under exceptional pressure, from taking the full force of repeated lockdowns to overcoming its restrictions, the sector has needed to remain remarkably resilient throughout arguably some of the most challenging circumstances ever.

2021’s Great Resignation saw many hospitality workers leaving their jobs to find new ones, so businesses have needed to be proactive when overcoming workforce challenges. And although the sector is starting to get back on its feet, there's still a significant skills gap in the workforce as the sector continues its recovery.

With some encouraging signs of one of the UK’s biggest sectors bouncing back, employers are keen to attract, train and retain skilled employees to meet the sector’s return in demand. But an effective solution is needed to fill the gap left by employees who left the industry during the pandemic – and businesses need employees now. Hospitality apprenticeships are an invaluable route for solving the industry’s staffing issues, for now and the long-term. Here’s why.


Is there a hospitality crisis in the UK?

The hospitality crisis is used to describe the current staffing shortage within the industry. The number of hospitality workers decreased during the pandemic, where we saw a loss of 90,000 (3.6%) employees from January-March 2020 to October-December 2021.

This staff shortage has left many businesses in hot water. Reports of employers restricting bookings are common, resulting in even more cost reductions. Recruitment advertisements have increased, but, for many, to no avail. Many factors contributed to the hospitality staff shortage of 2022, many Covid-related. We’ll list these below.

Why is there a shortage of staff in the hospitality industry?

So why are people are leaving the hospitality industry?

    • Employees not returning after furlough: for many working in hospitality, the pandemic (and months of furlough) provided the time to assess careers and evaluate work/life balance. With hybrid working becoming more of the norm in other industries, many left the sector to pursue other careers.
    • Employees moved away during the pandemic: as many people re-evaluated their lives during the pandemic, many relocated to new areas, and in turn, started new careers outside the hospitality industry
  • Brexit: many European workers left the UK during Brexit, who contributed heavily to the hospitality industry’s workforce. According to Hospitality Insights, Jon Fletcher of the Grange at Oborne in Dorset said: ‘Since 2016 we've seen an almost complete halt in applications from non-British workers, so Brexit has almost definitely had an impact’. This is further echoed by the fact that 25% of businesses with recruitment challenges cited reduced EU applicants as a contributing factor.

Is the hospitality sector recovering?

The future of the hospitality industry after Covid-19 looks bright, as businesses appear to be making some recovery in 2022. With the removal of work from home guidance and delayed events now taking place, hospitality businesses have been able to operate back to full capacity.

Oxford Economics echo this claim, forecasting that the hospitality and leisure industries are expected to be a fast-growing part of the economy over the next five years. Hospitality industry recovery is also demonstrated by its economic output – it was 42% lower in 2020 than 2019. In 2021, it was 21% lower than 2019. While this suggests that there’s still a long way to go for the industry to recover completely, it’s clear that it's moving in the right direction.

How apprenticeships can aid hospitality industry recovery

There is a perception problem for the hospitality sector. It’s an industry that’s often been viewed as a hard sector to work in, with long working hours and varied shift patterns tricky to navigate for some.

But it’s also an industry that offers fast career development opportunities across all roles – and apprenticeships play a vital role in making it happen. Whether it’s back or front of house, hospitality workers across the sector can progress their careers and build industry-essential skills at speed, many of which are transferable across different roles within a company.

Apprenticeships provide on-the-job, role-relevant training that ultimately reduces the employment gap, but also meets the demand for hospitality staffing. Businesses can invest in their employees, attract motivated talent, but also combat the issues of high turnover while retaining a skilled workforce. And there are numerous business benefits in doing so. We’ll take a look at these in detail below.

Skilled workforce

The skills shortage in hospitality has been widely reported. In a recent study, ‘inexperienced staff’ was the third biggest challenge in hospitality, according to employers. It demonstrates the reliance on a skilled workforce in the industry, but it’s also why employers within the hospitality industry may feel hesitant about taking on new staff who may not necessarily have the training required for the job.

Apprenticeships can be used as a vital tool for bridging that skills gap, and ultimately, future-proofing the sector’s workforce. Whether it’s bringing new talent in, or upskilling existing teams, apprenticeships guarantee high-level training alongside a more practical way of learning, perfectly suited for the industry's hands-on roles.

New, role-relevant skills are learnt from day one of being on programme, and the guidance of a 1-2-1 coach means there’s tailored learning support so apprentices can quickly implement their new skills – a true benefit for both the learner and the employer.

Clear, accessible career pathways

In a sector where staff turnover is high, supporting career progression is vital. Apprenticeships don’t just boost the potential of your team. It’s a training tool that can be used to offer employees a valuable career pathway, with clear routes for levelling up. Your people know they’re being invested in, and you become an employer of choice.

Apprenticeships are a practical way of learning new skills to take careers to the next level. Your employee might be entry-level, starting out as a pot wash or in a front of house, customer-facing role. Hospitality apprenticeships arm them with the tools to move up in the business, where they might eventually become head chefs, hotel managers or even own restaurants themselves. Working with a provider, you can create a robust strategy that has clear routes for progressive careers.

It’s why hospitality apprenticeships are attractive for the younger generation, particularly Generation Z. For many students and school leavers, hospitality is where they learn to transition from school to work and apprenticeships are an invaluable first step for taking control of careers from an early age. It's an opportunity to earn while learning, but also build the practical workplace skills needed to progress, all while being introduced to the world of work.

But apprenticeships aren’t just suited to young people starting out in the job world. Different levels are available for different levels of expertise, all the way up to management. It means anyone working in hospitality can get upskilled and work towards the next steps in their careers, no matter what stage they’re at.

Employer incentives

Like all other industries, hospitality businesses are faced with cost increases across the board - from energy bills, raw goods costs, and overall cost of living. It’s why finding new ways to make savings has never been more important. Apprenticeships bring plenty of benefits for employers, one of the largest being their cost-saving initiatives.

If you pay into the apprenticeship levy, then you’re already paying towards the apprenticeship training and development costs. Working with a provider, you can optimise these funds by investing in a robust apprenticeship scheme for your hospitality business. This funding can work alongside government-led schemes too. Find out more about financial incentives for employers here.

And it doesn’t stop there either. Apprenticeships can improve retention in an industry typically with typically high turnover rates. Employees stick around when their employers invest in them, allowing them to work to their own schedule and climb the career ladder. The many benefits of apprenticeships that both businesses and apprentices receive can improve overall job satisfaction, resulting in stronger retention rates.

Recruiting your hospitality roles

People looking for apprenticeships are also looking for a career. It’s why hospitality apprentices are often already more engaged, with the drive and ambition to succeed. To fill hospitality roles (and find the right people quickly and easily) employers can work with training providers, who can do the heavy lifting on their behalf.

At Lifetime, we recruit over 5,000 apprentices a year, many of which work in a wide variety of hospitality roles. Our in-depth screening process means that we’ll help you recruit the right candidates at speed, with teams that have national reach. We screen the right applicants before presenting them to you, keeping you in control at every stage. Want to know more about how we screen candidates? Read more here.

With a recruitment process that reaches people from all backgrounds, we’re working with our partners to widen social mobility, create equal opportunities for people from underrepresented communities and build a more inclusive workforce across the sector.

Real-life example: Mitchells and Butler

We work closely with our partners to raise the profile of hospitality careers, build robust development pathways and improve the sector’s retention rates. Leading hospitality employer Mitchells and Butler works with us to recruit and retain young talent. We’ve developed its provision for both Front and Back of House teams, to create progressive routes for successful careers at M&B.

As a result of its award-winning apprenticeship offering, young apprentices are more engaged, they see hospitality as a long-term career and are likely to stay longer. 65% of achievers are still at M&B one year after completing their apprenticeship. 16-18 year olds are now an invaluable talent pipeline to the business, and a group that’s an essential part of M&B’s overall training strategy.

Working together to promote hospitality apprenticeships

As a leading provider, we’re committed to promoting the hospitality industry, changing perceptions and helping our partners to attract, train and retain effective hospitality teams with apprenticeships.

Working together, we’re showcasing the industry as one with invaluable career development opportunities and skilled professions. One way we’re doing it is by investing in our own sector-specific initiatives, Chef Academy and Loving Hospitality.

Bringing skills to life: Lifetime’s Chef Academy

Four years of development led to the creation of Lifetime’s Chef Academy. It’s unique, role-relevant training that builds on the core elements of the Commis Chef and Production Chef programmes, honing the industry-essential skills that level up culinary careers.

Chef Academy is fast-track system for career development, designed to get the very best out of your people with hands-on learning. It’s about training chefs in the right way – not just about learning to make new dishes.

Through tailored masterclasses and live demonstrations, your teams are guided by talented chefs backed with educational qualifications to bring skills to life. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from the sector’s very best, in an industry where on-the-job learning can be tricky to find.

  • Fast-track system for career development
  • Tailored masterclasses for different cuisine
  • Hands-on, on-the-job learning
  • Expert tuition from top educational chefs
  • Live demonstrations to bring skills to life
  • Learn from the sector’s very best
  • Cohort or closed cohort approach

Loving Hospitality

Loving Hospitality is our hospitality partner network. It’s unique to Lifetime, and it’s how we work together to combat the industry’s challenges and embrace its opportunities. By collaborating with several of our employer partners, we’re putting the hospitality sector on the front foot, busting myths and showcasing how rewarding a career in hospitality can be. Together, we’re continuing to raise the profile of the sector and improve its retention.

Lifetime’s apprenticeship schemes: tackling hospitality staffing issues

We’re one of the UK’s largest hospitality apprenticeship providers, working with employers to transform their business as they train the next generation’s workforce. We work with four of the largest Pubcos in the UK, helping them utilise their apprenticeship schemes to bring talented people into their businesses. Whether you’re welcoming new learners to the team or upskilling your current employees, we’ll support you and your apprenticeships from start to finish.

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