Sector faces difficulties attracting top talent, says Lorraine Astbury, HR and training manager at Aviate

The travel and tourism sector accounts for one in 10 jobs on the planet, and is one of the largest employers in the world, yet the industry has difficulties attracting top talent, in both technical and managerial positions.

With research estimating that talent gaps in the industry could cost the global economy nearly 14 million jobs and $610 billion in GDP, should more companies be offering apprenticeship schemes to help overcome this skills shortage?

Apprenticeships aren’t new by any means, but an employer-funded levy came into effect in April 2017, which required businesses with an annual wage bill of £3 million or more to pay 0.5 per cent of their payroll costs into an apprenticeship fund to pay for training. The intention was for the skills gap to be solved.

A recent report has revealed that many businesses are already calling for the apprenticeship levy to be overhauled, after the number of people signing up for apprenticeships fell by roughly a third to 27,000, compared to 41,600 the year before.

However, the apprenticeship levy doesn’t just have to be used by businesses to attract younger people into entering the industry straight from school, but can actually be used to train current employees at any level.

Having been in effect for less than a year, the apprenticeship levy is probably still going through an adjustment period, but there is still a long way to go in terms of businesses, and in particular those in the travel industry, embracing the benefits apprenticeships can bring to their company.

Studies have shown there is a proven business benefit to investing in an apprenticeship programme, as apprentices are around 14 percent more productive than similarly experienced staff, and companies who invest in apprentices benefit from an increase in staff retention.

The government needs to make sure there is enough information available to businesses within the travel industry as to how they can incorporate an apprenticeship programme.

The travel industry employs a significant number of EU workers, and with the UK set to leave the European Union in 2019, Brexit could mean UK businesses facing higher costs to recruit staff from EU countries.

To ensure companies can still operate succinctly and deliver their usual high standard of service post-Brexit, they need to be embracing apprenticeships as not only a way to employ and retain future staff, but also as a method for ensuring further skill gaps don’t arise.

It might be surprising to some that there is such a skill gap in the travel sector, given it is an industry which offers employment opportunities to people entering the labour market for the first time. However, it could be the supposed transient nature of the travel industry which could be preventing a number of people from considering an apprenticeship in the sector.

With the travel industry continuing to grow year on year, more needs to be done to highlight the number of full-time jobs available to ensure the perception of there being no long-term careers in the travel industry is put to a stop.

We’ve employed a number of initiatives in recent months, including welcoming our first apprentices to the team in a number of departments such as HR, finance, IT and customer services. The reason we’ve chosen to do this is that we believe combining on-the-job training with hands on experience is a great alternative route for people to enter into a career in the travel industry.

Having an apprenticeship programme also enables us to be able to build our own talent pool, with all the apprentices we’ve taken on working towards a permanent position at Aviate once their apprenticeship comes to an end.

Our experience has shown that to ensure a positive outcome for the apprentices and the business, it’s important to adopt the following practices:

• Outline the expectations of the workplace to the apprentices
• Integrate apprentices properly into the existing team structure
• Provide a mentor within the team to lead by example and to offer ongoing support and guidance
• Hold regular reviews offering constructive feedback to apprentices both within the office environment and in a college setting for schemes run in conjunction with education providers
• Provide an internal training plan to enhance each apprentices’ development within their day to day role and support their contribution to your overall business objectives

We find that employing apprentices brings new perspectives to the company. It can become all too easy for a business to become complacent, but bringing in future talent ensures we can continually be innovative and develop new offerings.