Challenges for training providers as report finds skill gaps remain in hospitality and tourism industry

Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 15:33
Written by Vicki Mitchem

People 1st's State of the Nation 2013 research report has found that skill gaps and skill shortages continue to affect hospitality and tourism employers, which is having a negative impact on the sector's productivity.

The report, which consulted more than 2000 employers across the industry, highlights how high turnover rates and skill gaps are affecting the ability of almost half of businesses to meet customer expectations.

For the first time the report offers insights into areas that will influence the sector in coming years, noting that 88 percent of employers believed customer service skills would grow in importance.

Employers listed customer handling (61 percent), job-specific skills (57 percent), planning and organisational (55 percent), and team working skills (53 percent) as  most commonly lacking in the workforce.

In addition, the report shows that employers believe management and leadership skills (69 percent), the need to address sustainability issues (58 percent), and effective use of social media (48 percent) will have significant influence on the sector in the future.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, said that the sector will face significant pressure in the future as the skills needs predicted to grow are already in short supply.

"Our employers are already saying that many of their staff lack the necessary customer service and management and leadership skills, so as the need for these particular skills grows, the situation could definitely get a lot worse," said Brian.

"A lot of effort has gone into attracting people into the industry, but this shows that what we really need to do is place much more emphasis on making sure that the staff we already have in the industry are retained and given the training they need.

"As the economy picks up and we face recruitment competition from other industries, ensuring our staff have the right skills is going to be hugely important."

The State of the Nation 2013 report shows that while staff turnover rates have fallen from 31 percent in 2009 to 20 percent in 2012, continuing to lose so many people from the sector is undermining the industry's investment in training.

With 21 percent of employers reporting skill gaps, the sector's productivity is being severely affected. The hospitality and tourism sector is highly labour intensive when compared to output, so staff skills gaps hamper its success.

The research shows that in addition to retaining staff in the hospitality and tourism workforce, providing the right training and development opportunities for individuals is also imperative.

"Our research found that only 41 percent of organisations offered training in the past 12 months, which means that there are a lot of people missing out," said Brian.

"Of those that do offer training, most money is directed toward elementary occupations, which is carried out at the most basic level, and much of this is because of the high turnover rates we're experiencing. It has become a vicious cycle that we need to stop.

"If only 36 percent of organisations provide training directed at addressing individual needs, we are not doing enough to develop the skills we need – either now or in the future."

The report found that the rise of social media and technology will also play a significant role in the future of the industry, as people are making use of new media and information sources to become increasingly well informed about what is available in the market.

These changes are influencing the way customers perceive value and what they want from services, as they are able to compare information more easily and get better deals. The report shows that this is leading to an increase in competition and a real focus on the customer experience.

Other highlights from the report included:

  • One in 14 people working in the UK are employed in the hospitality and tourism sector
  • Employment growth in the hospitality and tourism sector (0.7 percent) is higher than the average for the economy as a whole (0.5 percent)
  • A further 660,200 people will need to be recruited to 2020
  • The sector contributed £40.6 billion to the UK economy in 2011
  • Almost half (46 percent) of hospitality and tourism businesses employ less than five people
  • 57 percent of the workforce is female, but only 32 percent of sector employers have female senior managers
  • 18 percent of employers with hard-to-fill vacancies believe there are insufficient numbers of people interested in doing the types of work available
  • The majority of skill shortage vacancies are for elementary staff (43 percent) and skilled trade occupations (41 percent)
  • 21 percent of employers report skills gaps, compared to only 13 percent in the overall economy
  • The sector spends an average of £3,625 per person on training, which is higher than the average of £3,275 per person across all industries

"This latest research shows that we are in a fantastic position to have a huge impact on the UK economy in the forthcoming years, provided we are able to adapt to the needs of our customers," said Brian.

"Naturally, we need to make sure our people have the skills to meet these customer expectations and adapt to changes in the future, but there is significant potential for us to contribute massively to the country's continued recovery."

A complete copy of the State of the Nation 2013 report for the hospitality and tourism sector is available from the People 1st website

Source: People 1st

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