At the very time when are seeing so many reports that the hospitality trade is running out of staff, the Beverage Standards Association has reported figures which go right against the trend – 2019 was a highly successful year for the BSA’s Training Centres, with a 27 per cent increase in student baristas being trained. There is now an appreciable increase in interest in applicants wanting to join the coffee sector of the hospitality trade.
This is a contrast to what is happening in the wider hospitality and catering trades. Typically, Caterer magazine has just reported (17th January) that one industry leader has written an open letter to the industry and government calling for action to repair the adverse reputation of hospitality world as a trade in which to build a career.
This is Fred Sirieix, a noted maître d’, who has protested that the old image of catering staff persists, as the least-respected section of the community – the wrong end of an industry “made up of masters and servants”.
He wrote that “parents, teachers and school advisers do not consider hospitality a worthwhile career option; professional education is not funded adequately, and catering colleges across the country are closing daily or operating under very difficult or tight training constraints.” As a result, the hospitality, tourism and catering industries cannot fill as many as 128,000 vacancies.
This endorses the publication three months ago of the report ‘Preserving the Art of Hospitality’, which suggested that 97 per cent of hospitality trade managers and owners expect a shortage of labour as a result of a hard Brexit, and that the UK does not have the workforce available to fill the shortfall.
There will be 40,000 unfilled vacancies coming up in the coffee trade alone, according to a warning by Allegra, the coffee trade’s specialist research house, who say that Britain’s coffee shop operators will struggle to find enough staff to handle the trade’s projected increase in the next few years.
And yet, reports the Beverage Standards Association, we are now seeing an upturn in the number of new baristas being trained. The year 2019 was an extremely successful year for the BSA’s Approved Centres and Accredited Trainers, who deliver training in barista skills for the City and Guilds qualifications. The BSA’s British centres reported a 27 per cent increase in trainees working for barista qualifications, and even in the BSA’s overseas accredited centres, in Greece, Cyprus and Nepal, the figures shot up to around 450 candidates.
This, says the BSA, suggests that the modern coffee trade is bucking the trend by proving that there is an attractive career option for newcomers to the catering trade.
“The majority of those who seek out our barista training are people looking for a new skill-set to increase their possibility of getting a job,” says Mike Palliser, who runs the barista training centre with the second largest number of City and Guilds students, at the coffee roaster Stokes of Lincoln. “They see that coffee shops are now extremely popular, and they see that those who have some initial training or a qualification have a better chance of getting a job in coffee.
“We work with the Prince’s Trust and the Lincoln college to train those who have been struggling to find work, and we see great results in businesses taking them on from our courses. I believe we have managed to help a good majority of people to get jobs in the trade.”
The barista route is indeed bringing new people into the catering trades, confirms trainer Lorna McCandlish, who runs the BSA’s most successful accredited training centre, at Miko Coffee in Scotland. She reports that the employment potential of the coffee trade has led to several Scottish schools creating their own coffee shops, either mobile or on school premises, as a way of introducing final-year students to the concept of business and customer service skills.
“I have a healthy stream of student candidates which grows year on year. Many of them have no idea what they would like to do once they leave school, so we are certainly introducing fresh minds into the industry. The teachers involved in these projects continually comment on the students’ increased confidence, work ethic, improvement in communication skills, and ability to problem-solve.
“The Beverage Standards Association says that it expects candidate numbers for its barista courses to increase again this year, and suggests that it may have found the key to recruitment – if you can show an industry which offers an enjoyable job with prospects and the respect accorded to a recognised skill, as the role of barista has these days, then the applicants will come.”
Written by Ian Boughton