Attendees at the event in London last week which was organised under the theme, "Combating the skills and labor gap in a post Brexit society", included more than 60 HR directors and managers, learning and development managers and specialists, recruitment managers, general managers and chief executives from some of Britain's largest hotel chains, clubs, restaurants and foodservice providers.
Survey participants indicated expressed their opinions on a range of issues which focused largely on how the hospitality sector can tackle perennial skills shortages which are widely expected to be exasperated should Britain leave the European Union.
Notwithstanding a government commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020, experts stressed a continuing need to encourage businesses and individuals to consider apprenticeships as part of their career planning.
The government's 'Fire It Up' campaign which has been aired on TV and radio, and supported by an advertising campaign on billboards, buses and in bus stops, was criticised for not going far enough in raising awareness about the opportunities apprenticeships create for school and college leavers - with its Gatsby benchmarks which present a framework of eight guidelines that define the best careers provision in educational institutions, also discussed by delegates.
According to a recent report in FE Week, figures for February 2019 showed 25,300 starts, 16 per cent more than the 21,800 provisional starts published at the same time last year. The report also stated that an average of nearly 90,000 starts per month are required for the remaining months to achieve the target set by the Government.
Sam Coulstock, business relations director, Umbrella Training, said: “We have seen some major movement by the government to encourage uptake of apprenticeships but the overwhelming view is that more needs to be done to promote the benefits of apprenticeships.
“In particular, more needs to be done by the government to help educate parents and schools on the benefits of taking up apprenticeships. This two groups can be the most influential when helping to shape a young person’s future. Without a strong focus on working with them, there is always going to be a challenge to engage young people into these sorts of developmental roles. We have seen some improvements but there is still such a long way to go.”
The survey also found that a large proportion of senior leaders within the sector (35%) saw apprenticeships as a key driver in developing their succession plans – helping to mitigate against the recruitment challenges the sector is facing.
Paresh Vara, talent development programme manager at PPHE Hotel Group, said: "We see apprenticeships as a key part of our talent management strategy. It is embedded at every level within the group as we are well aware of the need to invest in our talent for today and tomorrow. The current challenges the sector faces can, in part, be tackled by utilising the benefits that apprentices can bring."
Robert Richardson, general manager for The Grand at Folkestone, added: "The Umbrella Conference confirmed what we’ve long suspected; that apprenticeships are not just a key driver in our businesses succession plans, but an invaluable way to counter the recruitment challenges currently faced by our industry."
Almost half (44 per cent) of participants in the poll also added it is important for apprenticeship providers to offer quality training programmes as part of their approach to developing apprentices.