This is the time of year when parents will be having sleepless nights in the lead-up to exam results season. For many, the main concern is whether their children get the grades to get into university.
It’s stressful for parents and children alike, and I can’t help but wonder: are we missing a trick? Not all roads lead to university, and a degree doesn’t necessarily mean success in your chosen field.
I was brought up on a council estate in Manchester where very few people went to university, and while some of my friends did buck the trend, most went straight into work.
I left school when unemployment was at one of its highest points, and getting a job wasn’t easy. What we did have to fall back on in those days was the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which was six months of employment for a £25 per week wage.
While some called the scheme “cheap labour”, I have a lot to thank it for: my six months was spent in a travel agency, giving me the chance to discover an industry I would fall in love with and never leave.
I learnt on the job, and that’s why I am such a great supporter of apprenticeships. Let’s face it, uni isn’t for everyone – though many students seem to be pushed into it and often leave with poor results and huge debt.
The travel industry is the perfect example of a sector where you can start from the bottom and work your way to the top, whether in a travel agency or a five-star hotel. All success requires is experience, hard work, dedication and ambition.
Yet the industry is falling behind in its provision of apprenticeships. According to the most recent research for Abta I could find – albeit dated 2012 – 6.3% of people in the travel and tourism industry had completed an apprenticeship, which was lower than the economy as a whole at 10.3%.
Of course, there are travel firms providing apprenticeship schemes offering real opportunities to forge a career – including many of our members.
The Advantage Travel Partnership’s chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said (who didn’t go to university either) regularly talks about the importance of apprenticeships to the sector. We work closely with Key Training, and in my team our senior business development consultant sits on the board of the Travel Consultant Apprenticeship Standard, set up in collaboration with People 1st. But I believe the industry can do more.
I’d like to see travel better engage with school leavers, offer more opportunities and – importantly – inspire the travel industry leaders of the future to pursue a whole range of careers – sales and marketing, IT, PR, hospitality, aviation… the list goes on.
At Advantage, we are committed to growing the number of apprenticeships offered by our members over the coming year: supporting businesses to increase the number they offer, or setting up schemes for the first time.
Please join me in championing apprenticeships this year and help us attract a fresh, dynamic workforce that will no doubt come to love this industry as much as we all do.
Paula Lacey is group commercial and membership director at Advantage Travel Partnership