For this Talking Point Green Hotelier spoke to Geoffrey Breeze, who as Marketing Director of WTTC and having worked for Hilton has an excellent overview of the industry, and Martin Edwards, who has climbed his way up from waiter to become General Manager at Adnams Hotels.
In 2013 WTTC released the report Undergraduate Perceptions of a Career in Travel & Tourism , revealing that in the UK and USA the industry is a bit misunderstood when it comes to young people contemplating careers. That said, travel and tourism is a major employer of young people around the world and whether a graduate, school leaver or unskilled the opportunities are inclusive and plentiful. Geoffrey and Martin help us unpick the problem...
What are the barriers to promoting jobs in hospitality and why do they exist?
Geoffrey Breeze of WTTC explains, ‘The first problem that the industry has to face is a lack of awareness of what it is and what it does. Most graduates on the survey (from the above report) had a very poor understanding of the job roles available. They were only able to identify general roles such as travel guide and management. The industry is suffering from a shapeless identity as far as graduates are concerned.'
'This is partly a historical problem. The industry as a whole only started recruiting non-vocational graduates in the last decade, compared to the likes of P&G, BBC and Ford who have been recruiting graduates for more than 60 years. On top of this, whilst people have very strong personal associations with travel, their understanding of its inner workings and actual job functions is fairly minimal.’
Why are young people important to the hospitality industry?
Geoffrey explains, 'Firstly because of skills. The industry changes quickly. Chief Execs now have backgrounds things like computer sciences, numeracy or planning, whereas 20 years ago it was all about food and beverage. The cutting edge has now moved on again and there is greater stress on one to one people skills. For example, more fluid customer service and interaction means that those with backgrounds in arts or drama have the customer facing skills now needed.'
'Second is opportunity. There is enormous opportunity in any fast moving environment like hospitality for a young person to take responsibility. In a large hotel there may be eight junior or middle management positions operating at any one time and it is proven that someone can come into an organisation and gain a management role within 24 - 36 months.'
Martin knows this from personal experience, 'I left the Royal Navy at 21 years old and I was unsure of what I wanted to do, so I took a job as a waiter. Through continued hard work and investment from my seniors I have risen to GM in 15 years. It’s an industry that is perfect for young people because of the huge opportunities it offers. Energy and enthusiasm is at the top of most employers’ list and I’m happy to say the vast majority of young people do come with this attitude... young members of the team come into the business with a fresh pair of eyes and can often suggest new ways of doing things that help improve customer service, efficiency and drive cost savings'.
What are the best ways in which the industry engages with young people?
Geoffrey runs through the conclusions drawn from the WTTC report on this topic, 'Firstly by building the awareness and visibility of different careers available. Secondly, the industry needs to promote its competitiveness and the fact that salaries, conditions of employment and career progression are as strong as in other industries.'
'Thirdly engagement with educational establishments is key. Engaging with school leavers is often too late, the industry needs to be speaking with teens or school children so that when they come to make their first decisions about careers, they have hospitality in mind.'
For Adnams it's all about buidling the brand and communicating it to young people, partiucalry in the local community. Martin explains, 'It’s not about the hard sell but more about education in what Adnams is and does for the wider community. This will hopefully inspire young people to come and be a part of what we do. We often welcome groups of students from local schools and colleges to the brewery, to learn either about the brewing process or how the company operates. This often includes a talk from one of our senior managers who will speak about employment skills, or offer an insight in to the branding and marketing of the business.'
And what about engaging with disadvantaged young people?
The WTTC research doesn't report specifically on this but Geoffrey comments, 'The range of jobs available in the hospitality industry means that there are roles for all types of young people. Excellent training opportunities also makes it a great industry for people to start earning but also continue education.'
Rather than targeting specific groups of disadvantaged young people, Adnams looks locally, 'As with most communities, money and employment will be on their (young people) lists of concerns, this is why we always look to our community first when we have any opportunities to join our teams.'
And finally here are Martin's top tips on making your way to the top:
Be driven to succeed, never say no and learn from all experience gained (whether positive or negative).
- Be willing to start and work in any department, all round experience is of great benefit to potential careers in management.
- Be the first to volunteer regardless of the request.
- Customer focus is paramount to everything we do in hospitality. Always acknowledge your guests and ask if you can help.
- Mistakes are absolutely fine to make, but ensure you learn and never make the same mistake twice.
- Nothing is handed to you on a plate so work hard and be the best that you can everyday, and if the opportunity arises, you will already have a foot in the door.
For more information on WTTC's research go here , or find out about Adnams Hotels here . International Tourism Partnership  member hotels do a huge amount to promote opportunities for young people. Read some of our articles about how hotels engage young people  or check out our partner organisation Youth Career Initiative . Find out more or chat to us on Twitter or Facebook using #youthopportunities and #GHtalkingpoint.