In today's challenging economy, there are some very good reasons, argues Philippe Rossiter FIH; the UK hospitality industry's primary response to its recruitment challenges has been to employ non-UK citizens, however, new immigration restrictions plus relatively high domestic youth unemployment make attracting more home-grown talent not only a sensible idea but a growing imperative.
The lack of status and poor image of hospitality amongst many parents, teachers and careers advisors has been a persistent bug-bear for our industry. But we are not alone.
Almost every other vocational industry, including engineering and construction, suffers in the same way because it is indoctrinated into children from a very young age that academic careers are better than vocational careers. This is also the case in many other countries, but there are exceptions; vocational training is highly valued in Germany and parts of Asia, for example.
Although the reasons for this attitude in Britain are cultural and deep-seated, current economic conditions are creating a shift in favour of vocational careers. The Government's renewed focus on apprenticeships is one example of this and there are a number of compelling reasons why hospitality today is arguably a more attractive career choice than it has ever been.
Firstly, unlike many areas of the UK economy, hospitality is a growth industry. The tally of job creation announced by major hospitality employers in recent months has been impressive. Hilton Worldwide, Accor, Whitbread, IHG, McDonalds and De Vere have all announced significant numbers of new UK jobs to be created over the next few years.
Secondly, hospitality's 260,000 establishments are spread throughout the UK, contributing to the wealth and social life of every single local authority and providing local jobs for local people.
Thirdly, this autumn's increase in tuition fees has contributed to places at English universities dropping by 7.5 per cent, according to UCAS. Some young people are clearly looking for alternatives to higher education.
Hospitality's low barriers to entry mean that there are roles for everyone at every level, with or without qualifications and those who show talent and ambition can occupy management positions while still in their twenties.
Given the increased cost of higher education in England, there is some evidence that A level students are gravitating towards qualifications with a clear route into employment. At the University of West London, the number of students enrolled in hospitality and tourism management degrees bucked the trend and actually increased this year.
In 2011, research sponsored by the Institute of Hospitality found that only 7.7 per cent of UK hospitality management graduates were unemployed six months after graduation. This gives colleges and universities a sound basis to promote such degrees as education for employment. In today's tough climate, the appealing message to students is: ‘you will get a job.'
This article initially appeared at the WTM London 2012 site: www.wtmlondon.com Philippe Rossiter FIH is Chief Executive of the Institute of Hospitality
The Institute of Hospitality is the professional body for individual managers and aspiring managers working and studying in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry. It has been the industry's leading network for more than 70 years. The Institute promotes the highest professional standards of management and education and its membership spans more than 100 countries worldwide. www.instituteofhospitality.org