The hospitality and tourism industry has invested a great deal of time and energy over the past weeks, months and years lobbying the most influential political figures. Our efforts are reaping rewards, with public acclaim at both a national and regional level. You may recall that in November 2013 Helen Grant MP, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equality, praised the hospitality and tourism sector for its financial contribution to the UK and its ‘sharp focus’ on job generation. She admitted to being ‘blown away’ by the industry’s potential for job generation and praised the British Hospitality Association for galvanising the industry.
More recently, it has been the turn of London Mayor, Boris Johnson who showed a united front with Patrick Dempsey, the managing director of Whitbread Hotels and Restaurants and myself at a photocall to launch Apprenticeship Week. Hosted by BHA member Premier Inn in Leicester Square, the Mayor revealed plans to create 7,000 new apprenticeship positions in the catering industry, pledged by the British Hospitality Association. To mark the occasion and show his public support for apprentices in the hospitality and tourism industry, the Mayor joined two young apprentices and helped them serve breakfast to guests at the hotel.
Getting young Londoners into jobs is top of the agenda at City Hall and the Mayor has invested more than £2.5m on promoting and helping to create apprenticeships in the past two years alone. Talking to the gathered media, he said: “Thanks to London’s international appeal as a top tourist destination, hospitality is one of the city’s boom industries and it is superb to have the support of the British Hospitality Association in supporting 7,000 more young Londoners into a great career and helping to meet the demand for a skilled and dedicated workforce in this field. Apprenticeships not only help young people get a foot on the career ladder, they boost businesses with an eager, committed workforce – I urge all London’s firms to grasp the opportunity and take on an apprentice.”
It’s true that London is one of the top tourist destinations in the world with millions of visitors expected this year. Tourism now contributes £36bn to the capital each year and employs more than 700,000 people, and this is expected to continue to increase. The hospitality industry is forecast to grow by more than 16 per cent by 2020, and the huge demand for skilled and loyal workers is something the British Hospitality is actively mindful of.
London is clearly just part of the story, and Apprentice Week supports the creation of quality apprenticeships for young people across the whole of the UK. Boris’s show of unity demonstrates that the hospitality and tourism industry is sowing the seeds for its own future by nurturing young talent and helping to stimulate economic growth. And this is being replicated by hospitality businesses up and down the UK. By working collectively to tackle youth unemployment, the Big Hospitality Conversation has generated quality work experience, apprenticeships and jobs for 16-24 year olds. Support from our Mayor and others will be instrumental in achieving our ambitions to create 7,000 apprenticeships for 16-24 year olds by the end of 2016.