Friday, 7 December 2012

Why isn't the pub trade a career of choice?

Earlier this year, the pub trade press reported on research (by that shows our much loved industry wouldn't be the choice of career for 43% of young people. A pretty depressing headline statistic, but as with all statistics, and journalism it's all about the spin. The headline could have run as something along the line of "Pub Trade still the career of choice for 57% of young people".

Of course this would be too simplistic, as one has no idea how many of those who didn't actively discount the idea of a career in hospitality would express a clear preference for a career in the industry. However, there must still be a fair proportion who would or might consider this career path. (I have asked them to share the full, non-commercially sensitive parts of their research, but to no avail at the time of writing). The important question for our industry is, how do we change many of the perceived attitudes to our industry - often reported as low paid, long hours, menial, boring and repetitive? These aren't just perceptions of those employed in the pub trade, but also those too readily expressed by its customers in their attitudes toward 'front-line' industry members in the form of abuse and insult that we've probably all experienced at some time in our careers.

For a long time the British Institute of Innkeeping has led the effort to present our industry as one of an exciting and professional sector, full of opportunity and personal development. The BII's much vaunted Apprenticeship Scheme is a prime example being trumpeted as a way of engaging young people in a professional career in the industry. Noble sentiments to be sure, but the reality for many in the industry, especially in "team member" roles (i.e. non-managerial) is more akin to the perceptions expressed in the research. Whilst the publicly quoted headline stats may only show part of the picture, one cannot help but think that perhaps we as an industry could do more to promote ourselves as a worthwhile career choice.

Over the years I have encountered many ill-informed and 'untrained' publicans whose idea of career development was little more than teaching a barperson how to pour a decent pint and bottle-up. Over that same period I have employed many who have only ever seen a job in a pub or kitchen as a filler in their desired career path and who have not wanted to progress.

Too often, in the relentless pursuit of profit, both companies and owner-operators neglect the need for meaningful, quality training both for the employees of the former and latterly for themselves. "Train To Gain" isn't just a mantra to increase profitability it's a sure fire formula to increase the professionalism, safety and standing of many team and management roles from the merely menial to that of professional competency.

Apart from getting the bare minimum under their belts, e,g, the training required to gain a Personal Licence, how many publicans (let alone their staff) also go on to undertake the training required under the law to run a lawful business? The BII make much of their Pre Entry Awareness Training (PEAT) for potential tenants and lessees but once this and licensing training has been completed the progression to other levels of competency are almost relegate to the status of "optional extras".

I've got a memorable new acronym for the industry, one that would benefit not only prospective tenants and lessees, but also freeholders, managers and all staff: 

P.E.R.T. Pre Entry Regulatory Training. 

(It's a bit sexier than compliance training eh?)

PERT would take both team members and managers through the four main areas required by legislation and regulations to run a safe and hygienic business. The four elements of PERT are: Emergency First Aid At Work, Manual Handling, Fire Marshall and at least Level 2 Food Safety.

I would venture to say that relatively few members of the industry have all four of these under their belt, yet they are all the basics required to run a hospitality business. Things have come a long way in another quasi-hospitality industry, that of commercial aviation, from where the cabin crew were perceived as mere "trolly dollies" to being a professional and rigorously trained team of air-borne servers, first aiders and safety officers. Perhaps it's time for the pub trade to 'reach for the skies' and elevate our bar-maids, cellar-boys and Al Murray stereotypes into professionally recognised and more importantly publicly recognised career professionals. Maybe then we can become more attractive to the next set of managers and entrepreneurs.

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