Hospitality industry can tackle youth unemployment

Giving young people opportunities to enter into careers in the hospitality industry through apprenticeship schemes, training and work experience programmes will not only help reduce youth unemployment but could be fundamental to the future of the hospitality industry, an audience heard yesterday.

Speaking at an afternoon session at Hotelympia in London, Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said that to sustain the current baseline prediction for growth, the UK hospitality industry will need 300,000 more people in its workforce by 2020.

“To compete internationally, we need to have the best people and the best talent, therefore we need to have the best training and the best development programmes,” she said. “It’s not just generosity. This is business.”

With 40% of its workforce under the age of 30, the hospitality industry has a unique ability to offer opportunities to low-skilled young people, said Ibrahim. “We can get them from dishes to riches.”

Issuing the industry with a “call to action”, Ibrahim argued that if each of the 240,000 hospitality businesses in the UK provided just one opportunity for a young person, the industry could “wipe out” one quarter of youth unemployment, which is nearing one million.

“We are one of the only industries that can do that,” she said.

Speaking at the event, Patrick Dempsey, managing director of Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants, who began his career “washing pots and pans” in a motorway service station, said, “This industry is a fantastic industry for people to start at the bottom and work their way up.”

Premier Inn, which is owned by the Whitbread Group, has helped around 1,400 unemployed young people into work in the past two years, said Demspey.

The guests were speaking as part of the Big Hospitality Conversation, a joint initiative between the Prince of Wales’s charity Business in the Community, the BHA and Springboard, a young person’s work experience charity.

Speakers also included Andrew Guy, chief executive of Eds Easy Diner which, as the fastest growing restaurant business in the UK, has worked with springboard to offer opportunities to young unemployed people at all stages of the brand’s development, said Guy.

The audience also heard a discussion session with young unemployed people and those who had recently found work.

Ellie Clayton

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