Hospitality industry sets out to unlock ‘Generation Talent’

Generation Talent: Leon learns valuable skills at Premier Inn Birmingham

Generation Talent: Leon learns valuable skills at Premier Inn Birmingham

Green Hotelier Talking Point: Employment Opportunities and Work Inclusion.

Continuing our Talking Point, Business in the Community discuss the Generation Talent programme with member company Whitbread to find out how companies can access the skills and enthusiasm of young people.

By Gerard O'Donnell, communication and events manager, Talent & Skills.

For the 2.47 million unemployed people in the UK there are significant challenges preventing them from finding their way into work. With 92% of businesses using informal methods such as word of mouth to recruit a proportion of entry level staff, many people are automatically cut off from a vacancy in the first place. This, combined with many job descriptions requiring prior experience for even entry level roles, results in insurmountable employment barriers for many.

This situation is particularly hard for young people. They may have qualifications but they rarely have experience, and they haven’t had the networking opportunities that might open up their access to word of mouth prospects.

To tackle this issue, Generation Talent, spearheaded by 15 champion businesses with the backing of 90 UK employers, have identified that by making small changes to their recruitment processes they can make 25,000 jobs available to the unemployed.

A small change of perception can really make the difference.

In addition to joining the programme, businesses are being called to take the ‘Generation Talent Self-Assessment’, a short online evaluation that scrutinises a company’s recruitment processes to ensure they do not prejudice against young people or those who have been out of work for extended periods.

The campaign is backed by the British Hospitality Association who also launched the ‘Big Hospitality Conversation’ in 2013. This series of events brings together senior leaders in the sector and young people trying to enter the workplace in an effort to inspire the next generation of young people into hospitality.

We caught up with Liz White, Head of Human Resources at Whitbread, one of the programme-leading businesses, and a member of ITP and BITC to find out more.

What is Generation Talent?

LW: For me it’s an opportunity for organisations to get together and talk about what we can do to open doors to young people and the long-term unemployed. It offers the chance for businesses to reflect on their own recruitment practices and processes and really explore any aspects which may serve as a barrier to people finding their way into work.

We’re targeting 50% of our new roles for the long-term unemployed, particularly young people aged 16-24 to fill those vacancies and then also over the next five years we’re looking to take on an additional 2,000 apprentices. At the moment we’ve got about 700 people learning with us in our apprenticeship programmes. It’s not just a job, we want to open up the opportunity for young people to continue their education.

Why should companies get involved?

LW: It only takes a short amount of time to complete the assessment tool and it just makes you think and reflect about what you’re doing and how you can improve this process. It helps you consider whether you’re doing all you can to be accessible to young people and is there anything else we can do?

For us when we’re looking for people for our entry level roles we don’t need to use experience as a means of sifting candidates, we just want to find the right person with the right attitude for us. We wanted to be sure our recruitment processes weren’t excluding anyone.

What difference can it make to these recruitment processes, both in terms of making it more friendly and improving the relationship with Jobcentre Plus?

LW: In many cases the smallest of changes can have a big impact and really widen the talent pool available.

A small change of perception can really make the difference.

What can companies do more of to tackle youth unemployment?

LW: I think it’s sometimes a case of having conversations with young unemployed people to understand their perspective of the workplace, find out what it feels like and see what they can really bring to your organisation.

This alone can serve as an impetus to take a look at your processes and find ways they could be improved. The Big Hospitality Conversation is a fantastic opportunity to have such conversations.

Jessica and Ashley are given opportunities at Premier Inn Birmingham

Jessica and Ashley are given opportunities at Premier Inn Birmingham


What advice would you give today to parents of young people seeking jobs?

LW: We feel there is still a stigma against hospitality and we would like to ask parents to come along and have a chat with somebody as there are very real opportunities to progress within the sector and our organisation at a time of major expansion.

Come along and have a look as we have opportunities at all levels. Hospitality is one sector where the speed at which you can progress is phenomenal.


There are other ways to help disadvantaged people further their career prospects within the hospitality industry. The International Tourism Partnership works with local NGOs and member hotels around the world to provide training and work opportunities for young people who would otherwise likely be denied the opportunity, via the Youth Career Initiative programme.

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