According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation, & Employment, job prospects in the hospitality industry are good: “Opportunities are expected to increase as the global economy strengthens and tourism increases. High job turnover also contributes to making it easier for new workers to enter a hospitality occupation.”
Despite this, the hospitality industry is suffering from something of a PR crisis. In New Zealand and around the world, young people are not being made aware of the potentially lucrative career paths available to them in hospitality, and businesses are sometimes left relying on a quick turnover of inexperienced staff, often working part-time to support studies.
So significant is the problem that a number of organisations now exist to help the hospitality industry both source and hold on to young talent. Employing a diverse range of approaches – from training fresh talent to upskilling existing employees – these organisations seek to bolster and enrich New Zealand’s hospitality industry with home-grown and overseas talent.
The Southern Institute of Technology offers over 250 programmes in a wide range of subjects and New Zealand qualifications. With numerous hospitality courses to its name including a Diploma in Professional Chef Practice, it’s one of New Zealand’s premier educational facilities when it comes to a career in hospitality.
“There is still an attitude in New Zealand that hospitality is not seen as a real job or career,” said SIT’s head of faculty for new media, arts, and business, Hamish Small, who pointed out that tourism and hospitality courses do not count towards university entrance units at the secondary school level.
“Young people need to see and hear more from those who have succeeded in hospitality,” said Small. “Some industry operators unfortunately use the low-paying job scenario as an excuse to pay minimum wage. Smart employers who build a reputation for looking after their people have great retention of staff and become an employer of choice.”
The SIT’s on-site Bungalow Restaurant in Invercargill is operated by students, who work as wait staff, counter service, bar staff, and chefs for several periods during the year. Working closely with regional employers to draw new talent to Southland, the SIT is one of New Zealand’s driving forces when it comes to hospitality employment.
“Through various innovations in learning, such as workplace experience and workplace assessment being built into our programmes, we have created a pathway to employment for the majority of our students,” said Small. “Such innovation is continuing into the future, with a planned specialist Hotel School based in Invercargill, in partnership with a major Southland hospitality employer.”
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
Over more than 20 years, UP Education has helped 12,000 students from across the world, with 80 percent of its vocational graduates going on to higher study or employment.
Recently UP Education launched The Culinary Collective, a new school of cooking and hospitality designed to address the growing need for skilled workers. The school has 16 highly specialised courses on offer, including ‘Front of House’, ‘Professional Chef’, and ‘Restaurant Manager’.
“Currently, there aren’t enough people actively setting their sights on building a long-term career in hospitality,” said a spokesperson for The Culinary Collective. “Many young people join the industry in a part-time capacity while they study, but the industry loses them once they finish study or go into other jobs.”
There is clearly a job to do in changing the overarching perception of the broad spectrum of employment outcomes the industry offers, so that young people in New Zealand feel enticed and inspired to seek a career in hospitality.
By providing specific training and establishing a viable career trajectory, The Culinary Collective bypasses traditional routes to hospitality success that involve starting out in relatively unglamorous positions such as being a pot washer or a porter, instead providing students with a carefully customised set of skills according to the job outcome they are seeking.
“Today, students who set their sights on becoming a chef can acquire the skillset needed for the role by training with an education provider such as The Culinary Collective,” said the spokesperson. “This creates skilled employees who are ready to hit the ground running in their chosen field – a great outcome for the graduate and the industry.”
Whilst finding new talent is important, so too is upskilling existing employees. A study from Research First indicated that employers and employees alike prefer on-the-job training, with career progression and improved leadership capability amongst the top reasons cited.
ServiceIQ is the industry training organisation for the service industry, including the accommodation, hospitality, foodservice, retail, tourism, and travel sectors. By empowering and motivating people to provide great service, ServiceIQ seeks to help businesses remain competitive and maintain New Zealand’s reputation internationally as a great place to live or visit.
“Employers need to step up, as New Zealand Police have done, and start telling better work stories,” said general manager for industry engagement Tony Laskey. “ServiceIQ already does this without our ‘Earn and Learn Doing What You Love’ campaign, aimed at young people and school leavers. Our website careers section also includes downloadable career maps, and our Service Career Kickstarter booklet helps school career advisors work through career options with young people.”
As a partner of the Got A Trade? Got It Made! initiative, ServiceIQ invites its employer partners to the annual school leaver event SpeedMeets, where students in their final year of school meet with prospective employers. Where there’s mutual interest a match is made, and the student and employer can begin the process of recruitment.
“The other side of the recruitment coin is staff retention – having a job and working towards a recognised qualification at the same time is a huge attraction for many people,” Laskey explained. “Not only will people stay while they’re upskilling and gaining NZQA credits, but our employers tell us that once staff are qualified, their loyalty remains. Offering on-job training towards a certificate or diploma shows that the employer has the interests of staff, and their career within the industry, in mind.”