Last week, we ran two student events focusing on hospitality careers, to provide inspiration and positivity for the future. We’ve been asking some of those leading the way in graduate schemes and hospitality education about the impact they think the pandemic will have.
The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on all our lives. It has affected livelihoods, mental health and our freedom to spend time with those people we love. ‘New normals’ have emerged with many of us now working from home, currently on furlough or diversifying businesses to survive.
A time of uncertainty
“It’s tough to predict” says Ioannis Pantelidis FIH, Chair of CHME “Hospitality is one of the most resilient industries and it will be one of the quickest to come back. We already know that due to a high birth rate, in three to four years from now universities are expected to be busy but as a sector we need to work hard to attract that talent into our industry.”
Supporting our graduates during the pandemic has been a key decision for PPHE Hotel Group as Daniel Pedreschi FIH MI, Regional Vice President Operations UK told us: “Right at the start of the pandemic, we made an important decision to keep on our current graduates and support their continuous development. Whilst for this year, it is going to be very different for everyone, we still want to recruit apprentices, students and graduates in the future and develop their talent. It’s vital we continue to promote hospitality as a career choice, and not just a job.”
Thinking back to that dreaded week in March 2020, Edward Gallier FIH, head of learning and development at Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels UK and Ireland shared: “With so much uncertainty about the months ahead, we had to cancel our graduate programme for the first time ever. When we do recruit again, those 2021 graduates are going to be competing against those from 2020. Many of those young people are doing exactly what we love and keeping in touch with us to make sure their network doesn’t go cold. Graduates this year are going to have to keep an open mind and potentially consider other routes into leadership roles. You could go for a different role in an organisation that you really want to work for as there is always movement in hospitality; it may just be a different way to get to the top.”
Douglas Waddell MIH, operations director from Hand Picked Hotels added: “Many companies have reduced the size of their management teams across the industry so the roles available may be more limited. Newly qualified graduates may have to go in at an operative level and work up from there. As a positive for our industry, we are hopeful that there will be strong domestic demand for hotels across the UK when the vaccination really kicks in and people cannot travel abroad. There will also be a backlog of family celebrations and leisure breaks to take place which will help this sector recover. Graduates may have to adjust their expectations on seniority of roles available in the short to medium term.”
Richard Ward FIH believes that for the next three years there will be several challenges for those hospitality students who are graduating: “Hospitality and tourism has been hit the hardest in terms of job losses and opportunity shrinkage at all levels, meaning there are some very talented and experienced professionals currently looking for employment. The need for hospitality, whether that is accommodation or food and beverage, has flat lined with the majority of businesses closed to the public. Whilst there will be an immediate positive rebound once everyone is permitted to open, it is likely there will be a period of, perhaps, six months, where employers will be cautious on employment levels. The number of applications being received, even for entry level positions, has increased ten-fold in some places meaning there is increased competitiveness within the recruitment process.”
Going the extra mile to learn
When it comes to attracting top young talent and looking for work, both employers and students need to be as creative as possible. Ioannis highlighted: “One of the serendipitous by-products of the COVID19 situation is disposable time which can be used for education. With so much uncertainty in the job world, it may not be the right time for an individual to get into work. This provides you with the chance to upskill even further. You could do a Master’s degree where you complete a piece of research or specialise in a particular area of business such as marketing. Look for something that will give you a niche.”
Douglas added “I want to see that students made the best they could from the situation. Although not a great backdrop, there was an opportunity to work as hard as you could in delivering your course work and dissertations to the highest possible standard. I would be impressed with people that have excelled in this challenging environment.”
Expressing his concern for the future of hospitality courses Richard said: “One of the key outcomes of the pandemic is that many students who should have completed a work placement as part of their sandwich degree now have not. This is to their disadvantage and universities must take steps to re-embed placement years into the curriculum as soon as practical.”
Daniel added: “It’s important that we engage and work with universities and colleges by offering additional skills and knowledge training, whilst we can’t offer those finishing courses this year jobs at the moment, we remain passionate about driving that passion and ensuring they remain engaged.”
Hospitality businesses may have been forced to close but there is some great work going on behind the scenes. It’s been a busy time for Chris Wayne-Wills FIH, CEO of Crerar Hotels who has been working with a number of universities and colleges, mainly within Scotland. During lockdown they have been working on developing their own Crerar Academy which will be launched fully this year. This will offer extensive training and personal development to all of their staff. Chris commented: “Crerar Hotels now offer membership to the IoH as this reflects our commitment to lifelong personal development for our teams. We have been investing in and upgrading a number of our hotels during lockdown and we will always be looking for high potential individuals with a willingness to learn and develop to join the company.”
What should students be doing right now?
For a quick guide to making sure you are doing absolutely everything you can during lockdown take a look at these top tips from the industry experts.
“Students must use this time to do additional learning and develop their own skills and knowledge. We know many students have joined online webinars and other training sessions, volunteered or supported the work of the NHS. All these experiences show resilience, ability and develop confidence. Also accept that in the short-term hospitality is not going to be exactly as it used to be. You need to be realistic and set your expectations. These are different times so think about what is happening right now whilst remaining focused on your end goal. It may take longer to achieve it, but it will be worth it in the end.”
Daniel Pedreschi FIH MI
“Preparation for interview is also really important and I still find it frustrating when any candidate comes to sit in front of me and has not visited a property and has no real understanding of the business. This cannot happen in the new world. Your CV has to be really good. I also suggest the use of a short video to introduce yourself or even a vodcast. Use the tools we have available to help your application. We are starting to use technology a lot more in the business to communicate with our teams and our guests, so why not use it when you are trying to get in the door!”
Douglas Waddell MIH
“Whilst looking after yourself and your own well-being is essential during this period, employers are going to want to hear what students did to keep engaged and indeed what we did to volunteer/assist in our communities. Adding certifiable additional voluntary qualifications, appropriate to industry, is key. This includes adding in management level training on dealing with crisis and emergency. Anything that adds to the student’s resilience ability and response is essential.”
Richard Ward FIH
“Be a proactive deliverer, take charge and show leadership in your own way. Don’t be someone who just sits back during this time. I want to hear about positivity in tough circumstances. Great sailors are made in rough seas.”
Ioannis Pantelidis FIH
“We will be looking for how creative people have been. Think about the transferable nature of your skills. A number of employees have worked in supermarkets or done delivery work; this has been important for mental stability and fitness, but it also shows how determined they are to work. We don’t just want to hear how the last 12 months have been a challenge for you, I think that’s a given for everyone; we want to know how you maximised the extra time you have had. The ones who succeed will be the ones who think ahead and comment on posts on LinkedIn or talk about industry news. Students should use this time to make sure they research future employers and make those connections with the right people.”
Edward Gallier FIH
“I would encourage as much up to date learning as possible, anything that adds to your craft right now is beneficial. Everything from online training opportunities to reading, even podcasts and webinars, keeping knowledge relevant and up to date is critical. The benefits of IoH membership and access to the library for example are really effective ways to use time to develop in the current circumstances.”
Chris Wayne-Wills FIH
Want to help your students further?
Our Education Membership Scheme (EMS) offers the Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism (HLT) departments of universities and colleges, the opportunity to sponsor individual Institute membership for their students. Many hospitality schools across the world are already taking part and seeing their students and staff benefit from access to all of our specialist resources. This includes access to books, guides and white papers, regular webinars, our weekly coffee and conversation, a mentoring scheme and the chance to broaden their network. One annual fee will secure membership for all of your current students.