2C: Skills and Workforce Development
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This section provides a brief summary of sources of support for training in the tourism industry. It:
- looks at what destination managers can hope to achieve through training and business support
- acts as a signposting resource for destination managers who are keen to engage tourism operators in the training and development of staff, by listing the key organisation and partnerships commonly used for training and development
- lists possible actions for destination managers.
Achieving sustainable destination management objectives relies heavily on the co-operation and quality of local tourism businesses. Motivated, professional and fully engaged businesses are necessary to ensure that visitors are welcomed and satisfied (and therefore more likely to return) and that the maximum economic benefit is achieved for the local community.
Training and business advice can play an important role in creating an awareness/understanding of destination management objectives and enhancing skills/professionalism to enable businesses to help reach economic and environmental goals.
There are many support agencies tasked with providing training and business advice/support, most addressing the needs of all types of business. However in general they achieve relatively modest penetration in the tourism sector. Some of the reasons for this are associated with the small size of most tourism enterprises, their tendency to be totally immersed in the day-to-day businesses of operation to the exclusion of longer-term planning, and a general apathy towards training and external advice.
Services also tend to be designed and promoted in a generic rather than sector-specific way, and constantly changing terminology and new initiatives can be a turn-off.
Destination managers can play a vital role in improving participation rates, by working with support agencies. They are well placed to achieve this because they are:
- in touch with local businesses and communities
- engaged with local and sub-regional networks which can deliver local actions
- able to relate directly to tourism and visitor-related businesses
- aware of the support services/programmes available at regional, sub-regional and local level and can make sense of them for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises).
Training and business support activities can contribute enormously to a sustainable visitor destination. Areas that can be improved include the following.
- Welcoming, involving and satisfying visitors:
- customer care courses to enhance visitor satisfaction including workshops on caring for disabled customers and walkers and cyclists
- ambassador and visitor stewardship training, enabling operators to take pride in the local heritage/environment and relay this to visitors.
- Achieving a profitable and prosperous industry:
- one-to-one business advice tailored to, and targeted at, the tourism sector
- marketing workshops to enable businesses to attract year-round visitor markets
- training on aspects of recruiting and retaining quality staff who will provide a professional service
- take up of People 1st’s Skills Passport to recognised achievement and encourage staff to stay in the industry
- business planning and marketing courses including e-marketing and website optimisation
- IT and e-commerce-related training linked to local destination management systems
- training on the use and benefits of market research and customer satisfaction surveys, and how to undertake these.
- Benefiting host communities:
- local destination benchmarking/auditing and community attitude surveys
- training/workshops providing operators and chefs with the knowledge/means to develop relationships with local suppliers, particularly suppliers of local food and drinks
- training and support that equip operators with the means to influence guests to spend money and time in the local area, thereby helping to sustain local services such as shops, pubs and public transport, which benefit local people.
- Protecting and enhancing the local environment:
- training/business advice on sustainable business operation linked to active accreditation schemes or focusing on different aspects of operational practice, ie energy saving, waste disposal
- training linked to vistor payback initiatives, see 2E: Setting up a Visitor Payback Scheme
- working with specialist agencies to create programmes of practical support on environmental good practice, including pilot initiatives that help businesses to reduce their carbon footprint
- seminars/workshops that explore ways operators can encourage guests to behave responsibly and spend their time and money in ways that most benefits the local area.
The prospect of setting up training and business support programmes can sound daunting. However, there are a multitude of different agencies out there (details below), looking for local partners to work with.
Funding for training course development/delivery and business advice is also available in all parts of the country, given compliance with certain funding agency criteria. The key role for the destination manager is to identify local business needs, form partnerships with the key support agencies, promote take up and secure the participation of local businesses.
The following are key support agencies and potential partners. Support for skills and workforce development may also come from other council departments, eg economic development, environmental health, planning, recreation and transport.
Learning and Skills Councils (LSCs) are the key regional agencies for training support for the employed and unemployed. LSCs manage a wide range of Government training schemes, many of which are relevant to the tourism sector.
All are "co-financers" for European Social Fund (ESF), a main funding opportunity for local and sub-regional sector-specific training projects. "Co-financing" means that the LSC can support bids to the ESF for training programmes with matched funding to make up the difference between the total cost of the programme and the ESF grant available which is normally around 50%.
Business Links/Enterprise Agencies are brokers of business advice across all business sectors. All Business Links come under the umbrella of the Regional Development Agency and deliver information, advice and support services to establish and start-up businesses.
The core Business Link offer is a business diagnostic provided by one of its brokers that leads to a referral to the most appropriate sources of specialist support from a broad range of public, private and voluntary organisations.
Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) have overall responsibility for the funding of LSCs and Business Link. Some RDAs are co-financers for ESF in their own right, although the specific measures under which funding proposals for training can be submitted may be limited. They are likely to prefer "regionally significant" rather than sub-regional projects.
Some RDAs also have other funding streams relevant to tourism training and business support. These tend to change over time along with eligibility.
Regional Tourist Boards (RTBs), where they exist, all deliver some form of training and business support to tourism businesses, usually with local partners. The extent varies but the nationally renowned Welcome to Excellence family of customer-care programmes is common to all. Each employs a training manager capable of tailoring courses to fit into a local or sub-regional context.
In other regions the RDA has strategic responsibility for tourism-related training, and licenses a third party, eg DMOs, a private provider or Business Link, to deliver and promote courses, including the Welcome to Excellence programme.
It is a complex national picture. In some regions there are also Regional Tourism Skills Networks established either by the RDA or RTB. Their primary purpose is to focus the attention of support agencies and training providers on the needs of tourism businesses and, through sub-regional tourism skills brokers, ensure take up of available training. Where they exist, sub-regional tourism skills brokers are ideal collaborators on local training initiatives.
Sector Skills Councils are government-funded agencies set up to focus skills development programmes in key sectors. The tourism and hospitality sector's SSC is People 1st. They are drawing up a national sector skills strategy and working on rationalising the number of qualifications available, researching the needs of the sector and sharing best practice across the regions.
Train to Gain is essentially a brokerage service funded by LSCs throughout England, which aims to help businesses find the training they need. The advice from "skills brokers" is free of charge and some elements of training they offer, such as basic skills in literacy and numeracy, first full NVQ Level 2 and 3 qualifications and apprenticeships, attract subsidies from Government.
In some regions specialist tourism and hospitality skills brokers exist. The service initially entails an analysis of the businesses training needs on which a tailored training package is built and available funding identified.
Springboard UK is an organisation which promotes careers in hospitality, leisure, tourism and travel to a range of potential recruits and influencers through a network of centres across the UK. Its specialist careers service provides over 14,000 people with free objective advice each year.
Employment and Skills Board (ESBs) or Local Skills for Productivity Alliances (LSPAs) exist in most parts of the country. They operate in different ways but all share the objective of coordinating employment and skills activity at a local level and ensuring it is employer led. They are broad partnerships of key public agencies engaged in the skills agenda, and representatives of businesses from each sector. The chair is usually a high-profile business person.
Recent Government reports comment on and support the further development of employment and skills boards. From a destination manager point of view, the relevance of these bodies is their ability to influence sub-regional priorities and funding for the skills agenda. Making sure there is a representative of the tourism industry on the board could pay dividends.
Hundreds of local colleges throughout the UK offer tourism-related courses, the vast majority catering for school leavers. However, colleges often proactively seek external funding for more bite-sized training to address the needs of local employers.
When it comes to bidding for funding, colleges usually know the ropes and are therefore obvious partners for destination managers. In return, they need the routes to employers that destination managers can provide as well as their endorsement.
Most areas of the UK have some form of brokerage service operating between schools/colleges and businesses. These brokers usually operate under the title Education Business Partnerships (EBPs). EBPs are funded in a variety of ways – LSCs, ESF, local authorities, etc and are primarily a resource for schools and colleges. They exist to encourage industry involvement in various parts of the curriculum. This can take the form of work-related experience, industry mentors for students and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for teachers. EBPs are formed into a national network (excluding Scotland), the National Education Business Partnership Network.
- Identify training and other support needs through consultation with local tourism industry networks, community and environmental interests.
- Find out what initiatives and funding are available already by contacting the key support agencies listed above. Often agencies can adapt their programmes to fit local requirements.
- Once your ideas have been firmed up, set up a meeting with the key players to explore the opportunities for funding development and delivery of training. The funding criteria can be complex and the administrative burden onerous. Working with other agencies with the necessary expertise and administrative infrastructure is almost always the best option. Your ideas may readily be incorporated into wider programme bids. This can also avoid duplicating existing activities and help co-ordinate communication to businesses.
- Make use of existing programmes/initiatives, eg Welcome Host or Green Advantage, which can serve destination management objectives. Work with support agencies to tailor/enhance existing courses to fit local circumstances.
- Don’t refer to the term "training" if it can be avoided. "Business development workshops" or "business seminars" may be more appealing to local business operators.
- Try to establish training at times and places that are convenient for tourism businesses. Often a half-day session is preferable to a whole day away from the business for a busy proprietor/manager.
- When working with training supplier partners ensure that the lines of responsibility for recruitment onto courses and the course administration are clear. Venues and trainers need to be cancelled in good time if course numbers fall below a minimum.
- Explore the opportunities for providing online back-up for training workshop sessions.
- Explore the opportunities with Business Link for tourism-specific advice provision and discuss with them how to work together to engage the tourism sector using local partnership and consortia.