Bristol Apprentice Asks The Tough Questions To Minister As The Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase Goes Online

Bristol based Robert Alder, a brewery apprentice at the independent, family-owned, St Austell Brewery, virtually met Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, last week when he participated in the fifth annual Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase, that was taken online this year.

The Hospitality Apprenticeship Showcase (HAS), which aims to unite the industry to showcase the diverse range of opportunities available in the sector, was particularly poignant this year after the challenges the industry has faced during the pandemic. However, the mood was positive in spite of this, with its youngest and brightest stars displaying their drive to get back to work, and enthusiasm for re-engaging with the industry they love, after lockdown.

The event hosted a cross-section of the hospitality sector, highlighting the dedication to the training and development of people across a diverse range of careers, from front and back-of-house; brewing and engineering, to all the professional disciplines required to run a company.

Nearly 1,000 people tuned in to view the event and watch apprentices from across the industry get up close and personal with Gillian Keegan MP, as they posed a range of questions, without shying away from the difficult issues around the current situation in hospitality and future of apprenticeships.

The event, which normally takes the form of an interactive event at the House of Commons saw Mike Wood MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group and sector specialist and MD of HIT Training, Jill Whittaker, welcome the attendees and manage the lively session.

Representatives from Fuller, Smith and Turner PLC, Stonegate Group, Marston’s, Beds and Bars, Mitchells and Butlers, Compass at Tottenham Hotspur FC, JD Wetherspoon, McDonald’s, Lifetime Training, Diageo, AB InBev, Umbrella Training, The Arterial Group, St Austell Brewery, Fest and Revel, Ascot Racecourse, Sodexo, Springboard and Centre Parcs all took turns to question the Minister.

The pandemic and the road out of lockdown were the main focus of the discussion. The Minister was brought to account on what her department was doing to safeguard the future of the industry. Minister Keegan explained, “There is no doubt the hospitality industry has been affected; none arguably have been harder hit. The key thing now is how we get it open; we need everyone to be confident to go out, that’s why we’re managing the health side and being cautious, we want this to be our final lockdown.

During his segment Robert challenged the Minister on the scope for higher levels of apprenticeships beyond Level 4 in brewing, bringing the session around to the importance of the industry evolving the training programmes on offer. Minister Keegan explained: “Anybody in the industry if they think there is a gap (in programmes offered), can approach the National Institute of Apprenticeships (with ideas for new courses). There are always opportunities for companies to bring forward new standards.”

After an hour of Q&A time with the Minister, Jill brought the session to a close, she remarked: “Our apprentices are our industry’s best cheerleaders and trailblazers in the future of learning and development programmes. Hospitality is no longer a place where you work temporarily to make some extra cash, you can build life-long rewarding careers. We will come out of this lockdown fighting and it is going to be an exciting time, full of opportunity, for our sector.”

The whole event can be re-watched here: