Viewpoint: Catching the hospitality bug

13 November 2019 by
Viewpoint: Catching the hospitality bug

A meaningful apprenticeship programme takes time and effort but, as Jo Simovic explains, the return on investment makes it worthwhile

Skills London, the UK's biggest jobs and careers event, is taking place this week. Our virtual reality hotel will open its doors to thousands of 15- to 24-year-olds and their schools and families at the two-day event.

The event aims to provide young people with the inspiration to help make those all-important career decisions.

We are hoping that by virtually ‘strolling' through the corridors of some of the most iconic hotels in London, and hearing apprentices talking about their experiences with these employers through augmented reality, that these young people will get the ‘hospitality bug'. For those of us already in the trade, we know that this bug is contagious.

With the right mentoring, support and development, this industry can be incredibly rewarding. However, there are challenges when it comes to ensuring young people catch the right sort of bug.

This is where meaningful apprenticeships can be so important. We know that apprenticeships are a huge commitment to any organisation. All apprentices will spend at least a year of their life working and studying at the same time. It's not about just understanding the theories behind hospitality service and management concepts; they will need to apply these and visibly improve their skills and alter behaviours.

You could argue that this is a far more all-round development than an academic qualification. A meaningful apprenticeship for anyone in any hospitality setting means that the learning programme has been designed solely with the apprentice in mind.

The beginning of the programme should capture their starting point and their aspirations. This ensures that by the end of the apprenticeship, the apprentice is not only achieving the all-inspirational distinction grade, but also gaining promotions and achieving their personal goals.

The line manager and/or a mentor will spend at least a year supporting the apprentice. They will need to find a way to incorporate 20% off-the-job activities, while also ensuring those activities are relevant and connected to their department. This synergy between the apprenticeship programme and departmental priorities will allow for genuine coaching opportunities between mentor and apprentice and for true return on investment from those activities an apprentice is undertaking. Meaningful apprenticeship programmes are ‘live' and influenced by developments in the department.

Hospitality businesses will often spend a considerable amount of their training budget on top of their levy on apprenticeship programmes.

Those organisations working collaboratively with their apprenticeship consultants will spend at least three to six months developing the programme and materials, plus aligning it to organisational strategies, visions and values. People and development departments will spend at least a year supporting the development activities and, in some cases, they might be part of the delivery.

This level of commitment to apprenticeship programme design and delivery results in meaningful outcomes for said organisations. One of the organisations with which we work retained 13/14 hospitality supervisors for six months after the programme ended. Another organisation that engaged in building meaningful customer service apprenticeships increased their guest satisfaction scores by 8% (83% at the start of the learning programme).

Both organisations set out key performance indicators for their apprenticeship programme, and these outcomes were part of the carefully planned strategy where apprentices were encouraged to engage with projects and activities to support these outcomes.

Managing an apprenticeship strategy and developing meaningful apprenticeships takes time and effort. The return on the investment is only there if apprenticeships are closely aligned to individual, departmental and organisational goals. By taking time to develop inspirational apprenticeship programmes with your apprenticeship consultants, you are ensuring that you business has a great future and sustainable growth through retention and development of your key resource – people.

Jo Simovic is director of excellence at Umbrella Training

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