With the new apprenticeship levy aimed at creating up to three million apprentices by 2020 just bedding down, Susanna Forbes reflects on the first hospitality apprenticeship showcase held at the House of Commons as part of National Apprentice Week
Apprenticeships aid staff retention as well as bringing new blood into the industry, said leading lights from the pub and bar world, as over 100 apprentices descended on Westminster to challenge their MPs to a variety of bar tasks, including the all-important one of pulling a pint.
'It’s a great way to bring great talent into the business,' said Katherine Taylor, group people director at Marston's, which boasts 400 apprentices in its pubs. 'University isn’t for everyone,' she said. ‘The company can help them realise their potential.’ Jade Shepherd at the Glassworks in Stourbridge, a Marston's pub, is one. 'I wasn’t sure if I could complete it,' she said, with obvious satisfaction that she had managed to do so. 'You’re cared about and valued.'
The new scheme requires all employers, public or private, with wage bills north of £3m to pay 0.5% of their staff costs into a fund, which they can then draw upon for relevant training courses.
What’s in it for both sides of the party?
'They are your lifeblood', said Lee Woolley, head of HR at Stonegate Pubs, where 5% of staff are apprentices. The scheme dovetails with the group’s Accelerator fast-tracking scheme, illustrating Stonegate’s Bar to Board pledge. 'There’s new ideas and enthusiasm. The skill and drive to create a great career.'
As well as offering training at all stages of a career, apprenticeships have a chance to help in other areas too. Glen Duckett, licensee at the award-winning Eagle & Child in Ramsbottom, focuses on recruiting staff from disadvantaged groups, including ex-offenders. ‘This is a structured opportunity to help,’ said Duckett. ‘It’s one of the most important things about reducing offending.’
For Ignition Brewery, a social enterprise with a mission to recruit and train people with learning disabilities, it is about 'parity of opportunity' said co-founder Nick O’Shea. Apprentices work with former Meantime brewer Rory Cahill, with the South of the River IPA on offer at the event, a tasty example of what’s available.
Pictured: Graham Evans MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pub Group, flanked by some of the Marston’s apprentices