THE hospitality industry has changed out of all recognition in Scotland – and the wider UK – over recent decades.
Scotland, a country which used to be better known for its unhealthy diet, is now a foodie destination with a wealth of top quality hotels and restaurants – and 2015’s Year of Food and Drink will celebrate and promote the country’s natural larder.
In the UK as a whole, it is estimated that between 475,000 and 660,000 new hospitality jobs will be created by 2020 and, even at present, one in every 14 jobs in the country is in the sector.
But the hard fact is that the training and long-term development of staff in the hospitality industry is falling badly behind, with managers and qualified kitchen staff the hardest people to find.
Recent research shows that nearly two thirds of establishments with hard-to-fill vacancies say that the lack of talent is adversely affecting their businesses, with particular inadequacies in leadership and management.
It is well known that the industry has been supported by immigrant labour with a different service ethic – more than 20% of hospitality workers are migrants, compared to an average of 14% across all UK industries – but visa restrictions are hitting this source as well.
Around 46% of hospitality staff in the UK work on a part-time or temporary basis and many employees are only involved in the industry as a means of supporting income from other sources.
There is no doubt that hospitality has an enduring image problem which traditionally has discouraged indigenous workers – unsocial hours and the perception that the industry is hard work with limited rewards.
What is not recognised – and not bruited abroad nearly enough – is that it is an excellent career path for employees who perhaps do not have strong academic qualifications – many of today’s managers started as waiters or in similar jobs.
The encouraging thing is that forward-looking employers – backed by government and enterprise agencies – are taking an innovative approach to recruitment with some hotels and groups offering apprenticeships and long-term training and development plans with structured career goals.
Improving staff retention requires a homogeneous approach which encourages career advancement as well as supporting and respecting individuals’ objectives.
Employers should appreciate that some staff are happy being the best they can at the level they have chosen – we should ensure these people are valued and not forced to upskill or embark on career progression.
TV programmes such as Master Chef, Hell’s Kitchen and Cake Boss have given exposure to the hospitality industry and encouraged young people to view cooking and a career as a chef – as well as the broader vision of the hospitality industry as a sustainable career option.
This is the kind of change in recruitment thinking that has to prevail if the hospitality industry is to attract and retain ‘generation Y’ staff – as well as competing against other sectors.
Hospitality can provide a great career – let’s help to get that message across.
• Hazel Neill is divisional director at Quality Link Recruitment (QLR), the Scottish staffing and event management service which is part of the Brightwork Group.