How the hospitality sector is using apprenticeships to combat Brexit

We’ve all seen the headlines: Brexit is coming (eventually) and poses some unique threats to the hospitality industry. Skills shortages and employee shortages are the prospects of uncertain times, but behind the scenes key players in the industry are working hard to lessen the effect of Brexit on business using the Apprenticeship Levy.

Retention of team members in the hospitality industry is an age-old problem, with the sector having a very high turnover across the board. Hospitality relies on EU workers more than many other sectors, with a recent KPMG report highlighting how EU workers could make up a quarter of the UK hospitality industry. Uncertainties about the long-term effects of Brexit will only make the recruitment situation worse.

Combatting the long-term effects of Brexit with apprenticeships

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as many leaders in the industry are taking the front foot and countering the impact of Brexit by focusing on employee training. Key players are seeing the Apprenticeship Levy not as an extra cost, but as a tool to counter this impact and keep team members invested. Taking a proactive approach to this government initiative means employers invest in their team, supporting clear career progression within the hospitality industry. And the figures show that this approach is working.

Lifetime Training works with four of the biggest Pubcos in the UK to implement apprenticeship training, all of which track employee retention as a KPI. The data shows the positive effect apprenticeship training is having on employee turnover rates, a lesson that can be applied across the hospitality industry. The four Pubcos have an average team turnover of 84% but their apprenticeship turnover is only 39%. A top Pubco working with Lifetime Training is a key example with an overall employee turnover of 78%, but only a 15% turnover of apprentices.

A boost to employee retention rates

As an avenue for personal and professional development, Apprenticeship Training is becoming a popular way to retain employees. 70% of Apprenticeship Training provided by Lifetime Training is to existing team members looking to develop their skills and career. Well-structured training programmes allow employees to grow through internal opportunities rather than leaving the company to find progression elsewhere. Such development instils a sense of achievement and ensures the company culture is supported and celebrated.

It’s not just UK Pubcos which are using this approach, with companies across the sector embrace the Apprenticeship Levy to solve industry issues. Lifetime Training Chief Commercial Officer Sean Cosgrove explains the benefits of apprenticeships for employers:

"From restaurants to hotels and coffeeshops to Pubcos, there’s growing consensus across the hospitality sector that the Apprenticeship Levy is more than just an additional cost. The industry sees the Levy as an opportunity to build an engaged and skilled workforce in a time of great uncertainty.

“The threats posed by Brexit are shared across the sector, especially as EU workers have filled many of the gaps within the industry caused by skills and employee shortages. Apprenticeship Training is delivering personal and career development at a time when employee retention is vital.

“Apprenticeship standards are industry-led, and proactive leaders across the sector are doing incredible work helping to define and form the vital skills the workforce is developing.”

Apprenticeship recruitment filling the skill gap

Alongside the issue of keeping team members is the problem of finding workers to begin with. A recent CIPD survey of UK employers found that the most common reason (a quarter of all replies) for employing workers from the EU was a lack of UK-born applicants. This is an issue that many employers in the hospitality industry must face, but many are now utilising apprenticeships to find and train new employees. In fact, 30% of Apprenticeship Training provided by Lifetime Training is to new recruits.

Apprenticeship are attractive to prospective employees as it’s a chance to earn while learning, with clearly mapped progression as well as a qualification. A company that clearly invests in their workforce stands out to applicants, and apprenticeships tend to appeal to the most driven candidates. Plus, companies can receive a £1,000 government payment for recruiting apprentices aged 16 to 18 as an incentive for nurturing and training young talent.

Overall, the Levy is an opportunity for employers to invest in their team, developing leaders and a skilled workforce. Hospitality leaders are acting proactively to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy to solve some difficult questions. The figures show that apprenticeships lead to higher levels of engagement for both new starters and existing employees across the sector. In uncertain times surrounding Brexit, this engagement is vital.

About Marie Vickery


Marie Vickery is a Director on the Executive Team at Lifetime Training and leads the Business Development, Marketing and Partnership Launch functions.

With thirteen years of extensive knowledge of the pre and post-levy apprenticeship landscape, Marie has supported hundreds of national companies to successfully introduce apprenticeships into their business.

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