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Training our future professionals

Education and learning – whether through apprenticeships or vocational studies – is vital to ensuring our sector shines

If we want young people and those considering a change of career to see housekeeping as a profession with a path to qualifications, promotion opportunities and the chance to gain work and life skills, then we’re going to have to be… exceptionally professional!

There’s no doubt that hospitality is in a critical phase when it comes to recruitment. Brexit brought its own challenges and followed by the pandemic, led to a mass exodus of experienced staff from the UK. This has particularly hit housekeeping. Housekeeping Today decided to talk with some experts in the training field and discover how they are helping to face the challenges ahead. Let’s start with involvement by governments.

It’s clear that more governmental support is needed, and Environmental Excellence Training & Development Ltd’s executive director Delia Cannings urges everyone to support the aims of the newly-formed cleaning and hygiene APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) who are committed to raising the profile of hospitality and cleaning operatives, including securing access to government and co -funded education. However, not one to mince her words, Cannings provides an eye-opener: “A fact is that levy funding is not being accessed very well. ‘If you don’t use it you lose it’. Shadow Minister of Education Toby Perkins MP stated in a public meeting recently that £2 billion had not been accessed or used. It will have been reserved in a government pot never to be seen again by the very industry it belonged too.

Lakefield students were delighted to meet UKHA members

“Why would you let this money go when you could invest in your workforce to ensure their skill and competency? After all, if you pay into the levy ultimately that money has come from your business. Step up and shout out, grasp what is yours and invest it in your cleaning, hygiene, and housekeeping teams.”

And as Adele Oxberry, founder of Umbrella Training, says: “The sector is struggling at whole new levels with recruitment of labour, and not necessarily helped or supported by the government, despite heroic efforts by UKHospitality and others.” ‘Levelling up’ agendas by government encourage local employment, but a recent survey by Umbrella Training focussed on the perception of hospitality and showed young people did not want to engage with roles that society deems to hold little value.

Oxberry says: “Boosting staffing levels has to be key for all operators and the government has just announced they’re considering different flexibilities with apprenticeship rules for an over 50s apprenticeship which could support sectors in need of labour. We are also working with other stakeholders like the Forward Trust on a Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway that support ex offender transition into the world of work whilst doing an apprenticeship.”

The sector is struggling at whole new levels with recruitment of labour, and not necessarily helped or supported by the government, despite heroic efforts by UKHospitality and others.

At the Institute of Hospitality CEO Robert Richardson FIH MI spoke recently at the House of Commons alongside the IoH Youth Chair for National Apprentice Week 2023, helping to place apprenticeships and hospitality on the UK government’s educational agenda.

He says: “The total UK labour market has reduced by 900,000 people and the industry has around 158,000 live UK industry vacancies. All of which confirms we need to do more to create career paths for new talent and develop our existing talent. This is a labour challenge, not just a skills challenge.” The IoH Youth Council, established in 2021, continues to actively raise the profile of hospitality industry careers across students, graduates, and other early career entrant groups. And a recent IoH survey confirmed that continuing professional development (CPD) for all staff is becoming an essential part of building and retaining teams, including employers recognising that leadership training of supervisors and management roles was very important for future needs.

Apprenticeships are set to play a key part in all this. Cannings sees them as a perfect vehicle to access learning and provide recognition of housekeeping, cleaning, and hygiene operators skill sets. A range of apprenticeships are now available in housekeeping and cleaning, and Environmental Excellence Training & Development are eagerly awaiting the approval of the latest Cleaning and Hygiene Apprenticeship due later this year.

Umbrella’s Oxberry says: “Whilst the challenges of the wider economic and social landscape cannot be underestimated, we know that apprentices can act as a powerful means of supporting the continued survival, and hopefully growth, of the sector we all care deeply about.” Umbrella is on a new trajectory both short term and long term, aiming to help tackle some of the misconceptions around the sector and the roles within it. This goes beyond the curriculum to building on newer emerging leadership theories for existing housekeepers and leaders, but also through focus on technologies which will help engage young people in a way not seen or experienced before. Oxberry explains: “Working with forward thinking companies like Metaverse Learning we have been appointed as the lead consortia partner to create immersive learning environments for students to experience what it is actually like to work in the sector.”

Beyond apprenticeships she says there are ‘quick wins’ offered by Umbrella through an initiative called BOOST (funded by Umbrella and ESF) with a vast range of subjects that sector trends have identified such as ‘Managing Oneself’, empathetic leadership, and effective communication skills.

Cannings advises employers to contact local colleges and training providers as an AEB (Adult Education Budget) budget is available to support workforce training needs. She adds: “Please note a good, reputable, and forward-thinking training provider will tailor courses to meet your exact needs. One size does not fit all and that was clearly proved as gaps in learning came to light and impacted negatively during the pandemic period.”

In Scotland the Hospitality Industry Trust (HIT) Scotland recently awarded 414 scholarships to those studying or working in hospitality, with recipients ranging from people from just starting careers to senior managers. HIT’s scholarships scheme is open to anyone in Scotland working or studying towards a career in hospitality.

Members of the UKHA’s London region recently met at Lakefield College

Lakefield College in Northwest London is a member of the UKHA and provides personalised hospitality education for young women as well as running successful short housekeeping and soft skill courses for local business and private housekeepers.

They work hard to attract future hospitality talent with a special focus on housekeeping, and believe in preparing students with transferable life skills, carried out in the onsite laundry and housekeeping services for a 120-bedroom Hall of Residence.

Lakefield is well aware of the challenge that hospitality is still not seen as a first choice career for many potential students. In many cases parents are still the main decision makers and are unaware of the possibilities available unless they themselves are in the industry. The connection with the UKHA helps to counter this, offering a vision of a wealth of inspiring professionals with different career paths in a range of establishments.

While Lakefield does not run apprenticeships, they focus on Vocational Education running various City & Guilds hospitality courses including cookery, F&B, housekeeping, supervision and hospitality management.

Students are encouraged to complete a two-year Diploma in food service, housekeeping and cookery or a one year NVQ in hospitality services, which includes housekeeping. Their mentoring programme supports the vision that hospitality education becomes a force uniting the professional community and enables women to have long, viable careers encompassing a blended learning environment.

Initiatives Lakefield collaborates with include Rinova and The Mayor’s Hospitality Academy. These initially create opportunities to help attract future employees to the hospitality Industry, finding them employment as well as skills swaps and funded courses to help maintain mental wellbeing and motivation in these hard times. Lakefield act as a subcontractor with The Mayor’s Hospitality Academy, offering an opportunity of collaboration.

Mention of well-being and motivation means we’d better let Delia Cannings have the last word: “Education and training are key to the success of any business. The time has never been better to invest in the workforce as we recover from the pandemic and embrace the lessons learned. Going forward we must be prepared to embed the very best of housekeeping, cleaning, and hygiene practice.

“Effective cleaning and hygiene behaviours are absolutely vital to build resilience against outbreaks and to protect our NHS and the wider community. If we are to promote support and deliver effective cleaning and hygiene practices, we must stand together.”

Training at Lakefield has a special focus on housekeeping, but covers a wide range of hospitality skills
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