Skills crisis increases as young people write off hospitality careers

The labour shortage crisis looks set to worsen for the hospitality industry as new research has revealed a staggering 97 per cent of school aged children and recent school leavers across the UK have already written off working in the industry as a career option*.

Although the industry provides a plethora of exciting and rewarding pathways into hospitality careers through apprenticeships and ‘earn while you learn’ training schemes, the aspirations of young people to become successful chefs, managers or operational heads are left unnurtured at crucial stages. Two fifths (44 per cent) of primary and one in five (17 per cent) secondary students are not able to access food related subjects. Despite the majority (82 per cent) of primary students and two thirds (62 per cent) of secondary students saying they would take up these subjects if they were available to them.

Despite the high interest in food related subjects, nearly all (86 per cent) of secondary students say they’re in the dark about career opportunities in hospitality and the range of roles it offers with only one in ten (11per cent) given advice on entering the industry from their schools and careers advisors. Encouraging recent school leavers to enter the industry is no mean feat for hospitality employers either, with almost half (48 per cent) of 18-24 year olds viewing hospitality jobs as no more than a temporary role and a further third (35 per cent) believing industry offers no career progression.

Following the research’s findings, the leading hospitality jobs board has partnered with the youngest British chef to be awarded a Michelin star, Tom Aikens, to help employers champion the industry and ensure young people are encouraged to enter the industry.

Tom Aikens, Michelin Star Chef and business owner at Tom’s Kitchen, said,

Hospitality is an exciting, vivacious industry that has meant I am practising my passion every day, surrounded by incredibly creative colleagues. I know at my restaurants I am constantly looking for the next stars in the industry and struggling to find the skillset we need due to the drop of new talent emerging from the education system – despite the work done by the industry to attract entry level talent.

It’s a career that offers such diversity: from floor to sous chef, from logistical prowess to creative ambition. My own career has taken me from working with incredible luminaries like Pierre Koffman, Richard Neat and Joel Robuchon; all the way to be the owner of my first restaurant. What other industry can offer you such mentorship followed by such opportunity?

Neil Pattison, Director at said,

The strong interest that young people have in learning about food, cooking and nutrition, is a fantastic opportunity for the industry and its vital that they are engaged at the earliest age. We work closely with employers to ensure they showcase their brands and the amazing opportunities they can offer from entry level up, so that young people and experienced candidates alike can realise their career aspirations within the sector. It’s crucial to demonstrate the wide range of long-term development opportunities on offer, and to highlight inspiring success stories like Tom’s.

The diminished food related subject offering in schools, parents’ misconceptions about the industry in terms of working hours and pay, and the gap in clear advice from careers advisors are deterring creative and ambitious young people from entering the industry. We need the government to enhance the way in which hospitality is delivered as a subject in schools to help support these ambitions and ensure the next great industry talents are not lost. Alongside this, employers in the industry themselves can take matters into their own hands by communicating the full reality of opportunity in the sector directly with young people, parents and teachers.

Anne Pierce, CEO at Springboard, said,

The hospitality industry offers exceptional career opportunities for young people – no two roles are the same – and we’re working extremely hard to share as much information on the long-term career paths that are available through our specialist careers services, education programmes and partnership with industry.

Our flagship FutureChef Programme engages with nearly 600 secondary schools and engages with over 14,500 12-16 year olds, inspiring them about careers in the industry and creating a huge potential talent pipeline – the programme is supported by over 500 professional Chefs throughout the industry who act as talent scouts – but we need more to help convert more young people. We currently have over 1,000 trained and active ambassadors from the industry who have forged successful careers in restaurants, hotels, event management, bars and more who volunteer to give careers presentations in schools. Like Tom Aikens, they are committed to sharing their tips for success, inspiring and encouraging other young people to enter the industry. Our goal is to ‘recruit’ 4,000 more ambassadors to enable us to reach all secondary schools and communities to improve the appeal and attract more talent.

Kate Nicholls, CEO at UKHospitality, added,

The industry is already working hard to attract entry level talent, but we need greater support from governments and schools to ensure career ambitions are nurtured and encouraged. Hospitality is a wide-ranging industry with roles across numerous disciplines at many levels. It requires a diverse skillset of creativity, motivation and a desire to work hard, but it can be exceptionally rewarding and is full of success stories. It’s important that students and young people across the country are given the opportunity to hear about these success stories and given more information about the type of long-term career opportunities that are available to them in hospitality.

Louise T Davies, Founder at Food Teachers Centre, commented,

The removal of food as an A-level subject is already starting to impact the industry through entry level talent jobs and prime apprenticeship roles being left unfilled. Things are only going to get worse if the industry is not given support; less people taking on higher level study of food will mean there are less food teachers coming into schools to foster the aspirations of young people.






Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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