In May, I wrote a column looking at the hospitality sector’s labour shortage and how we might look to address it. Our industry hadn’t even fully opened yet, and already vacancies were skyrocketing and organisations were scrambling to attract staff as talent leaked out of the sector.
That previous piece suggested the “labour crunch” could be a watershed moment for the hospitality sector and that “there is an opportunity for the industry to reimagine its own systems and standards, reset expectations about jobs in hospitality and invest in people and culture.”
Six months later, and the availability of talent remains thin. But, happily, we are seeing evidence of positive change. At the beginning of October, for example, it was reported that three-quarters of hospitality firms were planning on hiking wages. On top of this, 75% of companies in hospitality have said they are increasing communication with existing members of staff to drive up engagement and foster a stronger sense of company culture.
One example of an organisation investing in its people for the long term is Compass Group. The foodservice business has recently announced the launch of its Compass Academy, a flagship learning and development centre focused on training the next generation of hospitality workers and providing social outreach to tap into underutilised areas of the workforce.
Compass Academy will be the first institution of this scale within the industry, providing coaching and apprenticeships for more than 12,000 people a year in a range of disciplines, including culinary, barista, cleaning and facilities management. Beyond this, the academy will be providing digital and administrative training, in recognition that many of the roles in the sector are non-hospitality-focused.
This is an inspiring development. Not only will the academy help build the skills, experience and knowledge that the organisation and industry need to bounce back after this difficult period, but its launch represents an exciting evolution for the whole UK hospitality sector. In countries like France and Italy, for example, it is the existence of state-of-the-art training schools which underpins their thriving hospitality sectors, and makes their industries a serious and attractive place to work.
I caught up with Chris Moore, who last week was appointed to lead the Academy as Managing Director. “As we know, staffing is a real challenge,” he reflected, “there are 150,000 vacancies in the sector this week alone. Through Compass Academy, we are putting people first. By upskilling those already in Compass we are investing in our people and focusing on staff retention. More than that, we are offering others a continuous career and a hope for the future.”
“As we know, staffing is a real challenge. There are 150,000 vacancies in the sector this week alone. Through Compass Academy, we are putting people first. By upskilling those already in Compass we are investing in our people and focusing on staff retention. More than that, we are offering others a continuous career and a hope for the future.”
Indeed, one of the most compelling elements of Compass’ new Academy is its focus on outreach and social mobility. Over the past few years, we have seen more and more hospitality businesses recognise the role they play in creating economic opportunity and fostering a more equal society. As Kate Nicholls, CEO at UKHospitality put it: “Hospitality is a model of meritocracy. There are jobs in every region of the UK, every high street and town centre, in every constituency. Those venues provide so many opportunities which, with hard work, determination and aptitude, gets people to the top, regardless of their background.”
Compass Academy will be an engine for social good, by dedicating a fifth of its resources to outreach and its local community. Based in the West Midlands, in an area that has some of the UK’s highest deprivation gaps between neighbourhoods, Compass Academy will engage with schools and charities to offer career opportunity to underrepresented groups, training people up for work within Compass and the wider hospitality sector.
Chris is well placed to drive progress, having been instrumental in establishing The Clink Charity, a not-for-profit organisation that trains prisoners in front and back of house hospitality roles, providing them with employment opportunities and support upon release. Prior to that, he spent the entirety of his career working within the hospitality sector, having started out as a chef and held roles at Fenwick, Harrods and Hilton.
“There are lots of cold spots, particularly in midlands,” Chris explained, “and there are many people on fringes, for example ex-offenders, veterans, those with disabilities and the long-term unemployed that need help getting on the first rung. Our mission is to help them do that in a welcoming environment. The reason I wanted to be a part of this is because we’re putting social mobility at the heart of the organisation, within a business that has the ability to make a real difference.”
“Our mission is to help them do that in a welcoming environment. The reason I wanted to be a part of this is because we’re putting social mobility at the heart of the organisation, within a business that has the ability to make a real difference.”
Compass Academy will launch next year, and once established, it could be scaled internationally. Looking ahead, I hope to see more of the larger businesses in the sector following in Compass’ footsteps. Not only do these sorts of institutions elevate the hospitality sector as an excellent career choice, but they pave the way for a more equal society.