Our industry must promote career opportunities to young people, writes Fredrika Cockburn, winner of the Young Talent prize at this year’s Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards
THERE is a common misconception held by those outwith the industry that there are little in the way of long-term career opportunities within hospitality and tourism.
In fact, it’s one I must confess I held myself to some extent.
Roles at The Fairmont in St Andrews and Oloroso in Edinburgh soon changed my mind and, when I started to think about getting a ‘real’ job in my field of study after I graduated, I quickly came to the conclusion that I was more than happy where I was.
Of course working in bars, hotels and restaurants are brilliant part-time jobs and I’m sure many people have been bitten by the bug like I was and turned them into full-time careers.
But what about the wealth of young people who have never experienced life in the trade?
The hospitality industry is a key driver of sustainable economic growth for this country, directly and indirectly employing 340,000 in Scotland and delivering £4 billion to the Scottish economy.Yet far more weight is given to positions in the sector elsewhere in the world.
In Switzerland, for example, you can become a professional waiter and it’s considered a good career choice.
So where do we begin educating people about the depth of opportunities?
Promoting the industry as a career choice with prospects at school level is crucial.
I get the feeling that unless you plan to be a chef there is little discussion on hospitality at this stage. We’ve all seen chefs make it big and while they are fantastic ambassadors for the creativity and innovation in the sector, it has so much more to offer passionate young people.
There is a lack of understanding of the complexity of certain roles and the challenging levels to which these can be taken. While no one can deny it’s a hands-on career, there are also strong academic and technical elements.
It’s up to us to educate the educators. Organisations like Springboard have recognised this and tasked their ambassadors with working with local schools to highlight less well known opportunities, enthuse youngsters about the industry and allow them to meet the people behind the scenes working in jobs they may have never heard of.
My employer, The Balmoral in Edinburgh, also supports the education of the next generation at university and college level, engaging with lecturers and offering internships and placements in a wide variety of departments for students showing promise.
But it’s important to remember that being an ambassador for the industry is not just an official role or a part-time gig.
As trite as it may sound, we should all be promoting the opportunities and benefits of working in the sector.
I would challenge proprietors, operators and employees to think about what they can do in their local area and even within their establishment every day to spread the word.
For example, over the summer we saw lots of university students coming through the doors of The Balmoral with their parents while visiting the city’s various educational establishments.
What better time to engage with them? It’s one instance where I was more than happy to turn the tables and hand out the tips instead of receiving them!
• Fredrika Cockburn is a supervisor in Palm Court at The Balmoral in Edinburgh.
Image: Part-time roles prompted Fredrika Cockburn to pursue a career in hospitality.