Are apprenticeships the future of the hospitality workforce?

apprenticeships in hospitality

Ben Gabbitas, Talent and Resourcing Director at Valor Hospitality shares how apprentices can be the future of the hospitality workforce, and how to develop an apprenticeship programme:

UCAS recently reported that 400,000 students would now consider apprenticeships rather than embarking on higher education through the standard university route and a recent study found that the upcoming working generation, referred to as ‘Generation Alpha’, is looking at the workforce in a new light. University is no longer seen as the only pathway to a thriving career, with 36%* considering an apprenticeship, compared to just 11% of its predecessor, Generation Z, considering the same. 

The prospect of being able to earn money while also undergoing education in a prosperous career is becoming increasingly appealing. Young people are crying out for an education that grows with their career, and businesses should use this to their advantage by investing in apprenticeship and traineeship schemes.  

It’s no secret that the UK workforce and particularly the Hospitality sector has taken a massive hit in recent years due to Brexit and the pandemic, with businesses across the country struggling to recruit enough staff to fill roles amid growing numbers quitting the workforce altogether. To combat this, businesses across the board should be embracing apprenticeship schemes into their wider employment and recruitment strategy. 

The benefits of apprenticeships in hospitality

Research by Umbrella Academy found that apprenticeships are a great, cost-effective way of retaining and inspiring employees with 69% of employers saying that apprentices improved staff retention and a further 73% saying that staff morale is improved by having apprentices.  

Apprenticeships enable businesses to keep roles fresh and exciting for workers, as they develop and grow within the company, with 65% of apprentices continuing to work for the company that trained them when they their complete apprenticeship.  

Hospitality is an industry that can greatly benefit from increased investment in these schemes, as it navigates recovery from the pandemic. The latest ONS figures revealed that 37.4% of businesses in accommodation and food services are having issues with recruiting enough skilled staff, making it the industry most impacted by worker shortages. Just over 14% of UK businesses overall are experiencing worker shortages, meaning that the skills shortages in hospitality are more significant than the UK average.  

Changing the narrative around careers in hospitality is key, as there is certainly a perception that the industry is viewed as a hard sector to work in with long working hours and low-paid roles. Many businesses have and are fighting this perception by utilising apprenticeships to offer valuable training tools and career pathways that reinforce a business’s commitment to its people. Making progression opportunities clear and attainable to staff is key to retention. 

As part of its people-first strategy, Valor Hospitality recognised the impact that apprenticeships would have on our talent pool and in 2022 launched the Chef Academy, a Level 2 culinary programme that enables trainees to gain on-the-job training, 1-1 tutoring and enrichment visits to local suppliers. The scheme provides trainees with the tools to reach head chef level within five years and is part of Valor’s wider ongoing commitment to retention, with graduates of the Level 2 programme having opportunities to continue their development and seek progression within the business.

Launched initially as a pilot scheme, the Level 2 programme saw 20 apprentices enrolled on the programme with graduation taking place in March 2023. By providing staff with tangible job progression, Valor is showcasing hospitality as a serious, sustainable career while reinforcing its commitment to its people and training through apprenticeships, businesses will begin to see staff turnover reduce and retention increase. 

How hospitality businesses can set up an apprenticeship programme

  • Explore the benefits and funding available to you on the Government website.
  • Find apprenticeship training that suits your business – some courses require time off-site for college days.
  • Find a training provider to be responsible for the off-the-job training, which makes up around 20%. Read reviews and look at the providers other businesses in your sector recommend.
  • If you’re not upskilling an existing employee, you’ll need to register for an apprenticeship service account on the Government website, and create an advert. You can also hold open days, visit schools and colleges, participate in careers events, or use social media.
  • Don’t forget to plan progression – when you’ve recruited an apprentice, sit down with them and find out what they’d like to do, and how they fit into your business. This could be a promotion at the end of their training, or moving up to the next level of apprenticeship. 

Ultimately, creating an apprenticeship programme can be a great way to transform your business and up retention rates, as well as increase staff satisfaction. Deciding to create an apprenticeship recruitment strategy for your business isn’t a quick fix, so it’s important to invest your time and consider what you’d like to get out of your programme.