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Date
28 February 2017

arena4finance takes part in HOSPA Apprenticeship Levy debate

With the Apprenticeship Levy coming into force on 6 April, hospitality employers, staff in the workplace and potential employees urgently need to take a new, career-long view of apprenticeships.

This was the overwhelming message delivered to over 70 industry leaders and prize-winning learners by an expert panel examining ‘Developing the Financial Management and Revenue Management Professional – The Next Generation’, at the very first HOSPA Annual Student Awards Ceremony.

The panellists in question – speaking at the Association’s new event on 25 January at the Hilton on Park Lane, London – were: our own Debra Adams, MD at arena4finance and Head of HOSPA Professional Development Services; Simon Tarr, Chief Operating Officer, People 1st; Michael Heyward, Chairman of the HOSPA Revenue Management Committee; and Paul Nisbett, Chairman of HOSPA’s Finance Committee. They all agreed with Panel Debate Chairman Professor Peter Jones MBE, who said: “Gone are the days of the traditional image of apprentices as being typically 16- 17 and 18-year-olds in overalls, lying under a car trying to change the oil sump. All our HOSPA prize-winners here today, who have successfully completed our hospitality focused Professional Development Programmes in Financial Management and Revenue Management, could become apprentices to enable and enhance their career development.”

He believed industry employers and employees needed to engage with a new career-long terminology for what ‘apprenticeships’ now mean, in light of the forthcoming Apprenticeship Levy which will present employers from 6 April with a different way of accessing money for what they are already doing in terms of training.

Expanding on this point, Paul Nisbett said: “The biggest thing to take out of today is that everyone can now be an apprentice when undertaking CPD during their careers.” He cited examples of how this view could apply to those in the hotel industry who wanted to change career direction and become a Finance Controller or Director, or say a hotel reservations employee aiming to become a Revenue Manager. “This is what apprenticeships are now all about,” he said. In short, everyone can become an apprentice at whatever stage they are in their careers. Apprenticeships also allow employers to provide a career path for their teams from the moment they join.

Simon Tarr believed apprenticeships are now a vital part of training going forward, especially at a time when it is very expensive to go to university. He said: “it is a real opportunity for the hospitality industry and employers as they can say come and work for us, receive an income from day one and more importantly, there is a career progression.” He said it was very exciting that both Financial Management and Revenue Management are now written into industry specific apprenticeships, including those for hospitality.

Michael Heyward agreed. “From my experience as being a university student mentor, I know there is a huge demand from students who love the idea of Revenue Management,” he said, “but do not know how to make that step.” He strongly recommended that those at the beginning of their careers, or those at a turning point in their careers, should ensure they work for hospitality organisations who offer a career path, are keen to support individual development and are really good practitioners at what they do.

“Apprenticeships are all about feeding off those who are really good practitioners,” he explained. Heyward then urged job candidates at interview not to be afraid to check that their employers knew what they are talking about, as employment was a two-way street. “You want to get the best job with the best people,” he said. “Employers should measure up as well as you, the candidate.”

Debra Adams told the audience that the Apprenticeship Levy presented a “huge opportunity” for promoting hospitality industry careers in financial management and revenue management; and she believed the challenge for HOSPA in 2017 was to demonstrate how organisations could benefit from the Apprenticeship Levy, whilst preserving the integrity of the Association’s hospitality focused Professional Development programmes in Financial Management and Revenue Management.

When it comes into force on 6 April, the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ will require all employers operating in the UK, with an annual pay bill of over £3 million, to make an investment in apprenticeships. The investment is set at 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill and businesses can benefit from this investment by training apprentices. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. In addition, the government will give employers a 10% top-up on their levy, so for every £1,000 paid into the levy, an employer will have £1,100 to spend on the training.

Companies, with a pay bill under £3 million, will be asked to make a 10% contribution to the costs of their apprenticeship training. The government is proposing to offer extra incentives in the form of an additional £1,000 to employers, and an additional £1,000 to training providers, for training 16- to 18-year-old apprentices. This will also apply for training 19- to 24-year-olds who have previously been in care or who have a Local Authority Education, Health and Care plan.

HOSPA is working to provide Association members with an opportunity to learn more about accessing money paid under the ‘Apprenticeship Levy’, and to provide guidance for financial teams to work with learning and development managers to determine how the funds can be used.

The next question, posed by Professor Jones at the Panel Debate, was how are careers in Revenue Management and Financial Management going to grow in importance within the hotel sector?

Heyward explained that Revenue Management is regarded as the “youngest profession” of the disciplines currently represented by HOSPA. He stated there was no clear definition as it was changing all the time. “Since Revenue Management’s static beginnings,” he said, “the internet has turned our world on its head. Distribution is becoming faster and faster all the time. Indeed, change is so fast that, in a year’s time, the definition of Revenue Management would have to be revised and updated significantly. The great challenge with Revenue Management is its ambiguity, the impact from various points of distribution, customer behaviour and the way our industry is changing.”

He added that the days of revenue managers being “back-room people buried in spreadsheets has pretty much gone”. Key to today’s revenue managers, he believed, were people skills. “Those people skills,” he said, “turn someone with great ideas into someone who can deliver great outcomes, and that’s what revenue management is all about.” Revenue managers needed to be team players as well as being numerate and having a financial acumen. It is now vital they can build relationships with key staff in hotel departments – such as sales, marketing and finance – to keep abreast of everything that’s happening.

Equally, Paul Nisbett, said a similar change had taken place in finance. The need today for speed in delivering information and data from so many sources was now paramount. This has been reflected in the way hotel teams are currently being restructured. He said hotel finance people needed to be much more commercially focused. Everyone now has visibility of what’s going on, he said, so it’s about being able to add value, working together in a commercial arm – linking finance, revenue management and sales. Nisbett also believed that there was now so much technology available that it was more important than ever to choose the right technology to drive results.

The panel then outlined some of the key characteristics ideally needed by an individual wanting to pursue a career in hospitality Financial Management or Revenue Management:

  • Possess both people skills and technical skills – a rare combination. Need to be able to connect with people to be able to talk to the head Chef, for instance, explaining why you want to do x and y.
  • Be a team player and have a commercial bent
  • An ability to interact with Cluster revenue managers and financial managers, who are not on the premises, but may be based the other side of the country – whom you are only going to be able to meet two or three times a year. It is much harder to develop a relationship in such circumstances.
  • Have a competitive streak – very healthy
  • Possess business acumen – critical as you must understand fully the business employing you
  • Be proactive

Professor Jones then asked the panel’s advice on how to attract more school leavers and graduates into careers in hospitality Financial Management and Revenue Management.

Debra Adams said: “This is a prime focus for HOSPA. Many of the learners we attract into our Professional Development Programmes in Financial Management and Revenue Management come from having operative roles in the industry. As far as school leavers and colleges are concerned, HOSPA is working with leading organisations, such as Springboard, to help to create a more cohesive structure to attracting talented people into our industry.”

Heyward believed that Revenue Management was a great profession. He said becoming a revenue manager and having a broad commercial grounding could prove an effective route to becoming a general manager. It was interesting to note, he said, that HOSPA 2016 ‘Revenue Management Professional of the Year’ Carol Dodds had been promoted to Vice President Commercial at Interstate Hotels and Resorts, adding sales and marketing to her responsibilities whilst retaining revenue management.

Nisbett believed that a hotel’s 24/7 working environment could well be a significant attraction to school and college leavers, possessing an acumen for finance. The buzz of a “live” hotel could prove a more exciting environment in which to broaden a finance career than the surroundings of a static office. Professor Jones agreed: “The hospitality industry is the most complex business you will ever be asked to run, because it is one of those industries where the requirement, the demand and the supply have to interact almost immediately. It’s these complexities and dynamics of the business that create the buzz, interest and love of it, and are the reasons why many people want to belong to the industry.”