Campus vs. Kitchen


Hospitality-specific management standards will soon be available as a degree level apprenticeship. Should we do more to promote them as an alternative to expensive university education?


Going to university is a special opportunity for so many people, but with increasing costs for courses and accommodation, many are being put off and are looking for other routes to take. The most obvious is to begin a career straight from school, and a growing number are choosing an apprenticeship.

The sector currently offers management apprenticeship standards and soon hospitality-specific management degrees will be available as a higher level apprenticeship. With 83% of all current higher apprenticeship frameworks in management, a specific hospitality apprenticeship at degree level should be welcomed with open arms.

In 2014/15 there were 499,900 apprenticeship starts in England, 59,500 (14%) more than the previous year – the first year since 2011/12 in which apprenticeship numbers increased. The government has announced that the hospitality sector, as one of the biggest employment sectors, needs 855,000 new staff by 2017 to replace those leaving the industry. Should we do more to highlight the training opportunities available in this exciting, dynamic sector?

There is an increasing number of advanced level and higher apprenticeships available, allowing people the opportunity to move their career forward and gain professional skills while working and earning a salary. Anyone over 16, living in England and not in full-time education can apply for apprenticeships at intermediate, advanced, higher and degree levels. The government has previously said that research has shown 90% of apprentices stay in employment with 71% staying with the same employer. A quarter receive a promotion within 12 months.


Why does the hospitality industry not promote the Apprenticeship route?

We met up with Jill Whittaker and John Hyde – who co-founded HIT Training – to discuss apprenticeships and the future. They believe because the education sector doesn’t quite understand hospitality’s challenges, they have not been activity promoting the opportunity. Banks have been picking up the best A-Level talent who do not want to go to university. Jill noted, “We’re looking forward to the day when we do this in hospitality.” At the moment most hospitality apprenticeships are delivered by private training companies and colleges. John added, “The challenge may lie on both the academic and practical side, there is a mindset difference between the campus and the workplace. If we don’t act soon, we could be too late and be further behind the game.”

Many hospitality companies emphasise the need of retaining their best employees, but is it also essential to look at the entry route of bringing new members in their teams. A larger company may be able to promote a wide-reaching campaign to encourage new talent, but for the small SMEs how do they make an impact? Jill commented, “Innovation must be the answer, in all areas. We believe ideas such as four days kitchen working and three days off, is a great way to bring new people into the industry – it combats the negative view of hard and challenging hours.” How to showcase this type of innovation to a wider audience may be the key for the future.

Hospitality apprenticeships work for people of all ages and have the huge advantage of allowing them to earn while learning.

Producing rounded individuals with transferrable skills can only be positive. University is not for everyone, despite the pressures put on people, the sector must show that a day in the kitchen compared to the library is still a way of learning.

John believes the lack of government reforms has not helped the situation of encouraging more to choose the alternative route to university. “Ministers come in and want to leave their mark, they plan positive reforms and then leave before they are implemented – it’s a fractured ongoing process,” he said. However, progress is being made. HIT have 10,000 apprentices completing at all levels over a 12-month period and emphasise how it can aid an individual’s personal and practical skills.

Management, leadership and kitchen programmes are all available. For more people to choose this route, it needs to be made less confusing. Although there are several changes taking place which should make the process clearer. “There are new standards for apprenticeships, development at levels 4, 5, 6 and 7 – the equivalent from foundation to master degree, and the implication of the future Apprenticeship Levy,” explained John.

The levy, at 0.5% of a business’s payroll over £3m, raised monthly from PAYE returns, comes in next April. Some feel the levy is being rushed in, and with many companies already providing their own forms of training, so it may be effective for some and not for others – time will tell. Jill noted, “We estimate there are less than 1,000 companies being affected by the levy, but SMEs that don’t apply will have to contribute 10% towards the cost of an apprenticeship, which could be quite a lot.”

Highlighting hospitality apprenticeships as an alternative to going to university will create a positive impact. A degree-level apprenticeship in the sector should only help bring more into the sector. The industry needs to come together to really showcase the opportunities because if someone, at any point on their life journey, can enter the sector and earn and learn at the same time, it is in many ways more effective than a traditional university degree.