Event hears of ‘largely positive’ outlook for apprenticeships. Lucy Huxley reports

The event saw the launch of Take Off In Travel, Travel Weekly’s guide to careers in the sector, access the online edition

Gallery from the event

Businesses urged to look into ethnicity pay gap

Businesses should act now to assess pay equality for staff based on ethnicity before reporting becomes compulsory, according to a leading lawyer.

Speaking at the Travel Weekly Business Breakfast on training and careers in travel, Fieldfisher partner Nick Thorpe said larger companies were now comfortable with reporting on gender pay gaps and were using the reports to drive change in their business.

However, he warned that relatively few companies had engaged with the current consultation on ethnicity pay gap reporting, which he expected to be implemented in April 2020.

“Only 11% of employers are collecting data on ethnicity pay,” he said. “It’s extremely complex. How do you report it?”

But he urged: “Take some action now. Look at how you can address issues and use positive action measures in embedding change.”

Thorpe said a number of travel companies had taken positive action based on gender pay gap reporting, including easyJet, which aims to ensure 20% of its pilots are female by 2020, and Carnival UK, which was ensuring gender balance on recruitment shortlists.

But he warned: “You have to be very careful that you don’t stray from positive action to positive discrimination.”

Andy Smyth, early talent and apprenticeships manager for Tui, said: “There’s a lot of work to do around diversity. It’s been a useful exercise to look at our shape and activity, to help us ensure we make the right decisions. It will be a useful indicator for others.”

Vicki Wolf, education partnerships manager at Abta, added: “It all comes down to training and making sure your recruitment process is fair and competency-based.”

Good outlook for apprenticeships as numbers rise

The number of apprenticeship starts in travel is “climbing steadily” and the picture is “largely positive”, said Tui early talent and apprenticeships manager Andy Smyth.

Smyth had previously raised concerns that companies could misuse apprenticeship funds to recoup funds from the apprenticeship levy – taking on new recruits without proper policies in place.

“There are still levels of uncertainty around it, but it’s an evolving market,” he said. “Some companies are still getting to grips with the best models, but it’s largely positive. The number of actual participants is climbing steadily and there has been a reduction in apprenticeships
that weren’t fit for purpose.”

Speaking about releasing levy funding, he added: “There has been some learning and maturing of thinking in this area. Companies are starting to take a more mature stance and think about what topics they want to offer apprenticeships in, and asking ‘what are my people plans for the future?’.”

Smyth admitted creating an apprenticeship programme was easier for larger companies, but said there was some “really positive work being done by the Federation of Small Businesses in helping smaller companies make them work”.

Abta’s Vicki Wolf said there had been an increase in independents taking on apprentices in disciplines beyond travel sales, including digital marketing, IT, finance, management and team leadership.

She added: “Companies realise apprenticeships are not just for new staff coming into travel, but can also be used to retrain and retain current staff you want to keep.”

Work experience essential for tourism students

Bournemouth University lecturer Derek Robbins said students considering travel and tourism courses must ensure a sandwich placement is included in their course, but admitted placements in the public, retail and aviation sectors were limited.

Robbins said: “Some students study for three years and when they come out they are up against people who have been working within the industry. A sandwich placement, and work experience in a company, is crucial.”

Robbins said Bournemouth had good partnerships with companies in digital marketing, cruise, online sales and tour operating, but said finding placements for those interested in retail, aviation and tourism development in the public sector was more difficult.

Tui’s Andy Smyth said: “There is more ‘readiness’ today than three to five years ago. Colleges are really focusing now on employability skills.”

Courses may be reduced as demand dips

The number of colleges and universities offering travel and tourism courses “may need to contract”, said a leading university lecturer.

Derek Robbins, senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, said: “There are 100 colleges and universities providing travel and tourism courses. That’s a lot and might need to contract as demand is slightly reducing.”

Robbins said demographic and age trends were impacting applicant levels, and added that Brexit had had a “big impact”.

“We have attracted many Eastern Europeans from the Baltic states to our courses in the past and there has been a marked reduction in applications from there,” he said. “That is not going to help our economy.”

Robbins added that the government’s focus on apprenticeships had caused academic establishments to “think more carefully about what we are doing”.

But he said academic courses still had a place as they gave a broad grounding in the industry.

“We need to ensure our syllabuses are completely relevant,” he said. “We have an excellent graduate employment record at Bournemouth and we want to maintain that.”

Gallery from the event

The event saw the launch of Take Off In Travel, Travel Weekly’s guide to careers in the sector, access the online edition