RED CARNATION HOTELS is part of a new campaign to attract more young people into the hospitality sector. Its managing director says there is no better time for such an initiative.
David Burrows (DB): Good afternoon Jonathan. We’re here to talk about how the hospitality sector can attract more young people–so how did you end up as MD of Red Carnation?
Jonathan Raggett (JR): I actually started on a management scheme having finished an HND in hospitality. In that job I did everything from cutting carrots to cleaning rooms, and from there I moved into a role as an assistant manager. My friends went off to be bankers.
DB: Do you regret not following them?
JR: They had higher salaries, but they haven’t gone up like those in hospitality. But more importantly, the ones I know hate – with a capital H – their jobs. I never get up and dread going to work. I have bad days, but I genuinely love what I do.
DB: Traditionally, it’s a sector that’s struggled to attract the best talent, though – how can it reverse that trend?
JR: There’s no doubt that hospitality still has a stigma … that people will come into the sector when they can’t find something better. But it’s a fantastic business and you can progress quickly. You can go into a restaurant and do a fantastic job for two years and then move into a supervisory role – and then into management, quite conceivably, by the time you are 30.
DB: Do qualifications help?
JR: They might give you an edge but you don’t need a qualification. This job is about 50% technical and 50% about the person. I need people who will smile, who have energy and genuine warmth. If you want to be a heart surgeon I can see that’s less relevant. In hospitality you have to like people.
DB: We’re in the midst of National Apprenticeship Week and you’ve made some pretty bold pledges to bring more young talent into your business.
JR: We’ve pledged 100 new jobs for young people over the next couple of years. As we speak, I’ve got 22 vacancies on the website – I’m looking for everyone from engineers for the maintenance team to waiting staff and assistant managers. I like to promote from within but there’s talent out there. And there’s been no better time for us to attract it.
DB: What do you mean?
JR: If you look at what’s going on in other sectors, like banking and retail, with all the redundancies … it’s horrific. Why shouldn’t we go and get some of the talent that might previously have headed elsewhere? I’ve always said that talent goes where it wants to go and where the best prospects are.
DB: The British Hospitality Association has claimed the sector can create 300,000 new jobs by the end of the decade. But why is it important to invest in young people?
JR: One of the most exciting things in my job is seeing bright people come in with good opinions on a range of subjects – from social media to sustainability. I can learn from them. We can start to bring in these bright people from schools and university but we have to do it properly. Some don’t offer proper training and that can put people off forever. We have a massive culture of in-house training, and we’ve achieved the Investors in People gold status.