Travel, tourism and hospitality Sector Skills Council People 1st has told the travel trade it must help sort out its chaotic industry training.

People 1st chief executive Brian Wisdom described the current state of travel industry training as “absolute madness”, with £30 million of public money spent every year on courses some of which have just a single student on them.

He urged employers to get involved by designing courses.

“It’s because the industry hasn’t worked with the education sector that we are in this mess in the first place,” he said. “We are looking to produce a spine of industry-supported courses to give future travel staff the skills they need.”

The travel industry is to get its first employer-endorsed educational courses as part of a radical overhaul of the UK’s further and higher education structure unveiled this week.

Under People 1st’s plan, launched by tourism minister Shaun Woodward on Wednesday, the industry will help shape the content of a small number of core courses.

Currently there are more than 100 post-16 travel and tourism courses but only 12% of graduates go on to work in the industry.

Wisdom revealed students receive poor career advice meaning some not interested in working in travel end up on travel-related courses.

In one focus group of students not one wanted to be a travel agent, while one teacher revealed a student wanting to work in a bar in Spain took a travel course.

Wisdom said he hopes students will be encouraged to take employer-endorsed courses over others available, giving travel companies greater confidence when employing graduates.

People 1st plans to have the courses in place in time for the 2009/10 academic year, with a Sector Qualification Strategy ready by the autumn before employers and educational establishments meet to shape the courses.