Comment: Don’t overlook benefits of apprenticeships and internships

Abta education manager Vicki Wolf says existing staff as well as new recruits can benefit

As businesses reopen and expand, the recruitment and retention of staff is set to remain a challenge for travel in 2022, with many other industries also looking to take on more experienced staff.

However, there have been a lot of positive stories in the press lately about employing apprentices – and I would strongly endorse this as a way to access an invaluable resource of keen and motivated staff.

Representing Abta on the Travel Apprenticeship Board, where professional standards for the travel consultant apprenticeship were developed by representatives from across the industry, I believe apprenticeships are an excellent way of recruiting new staff into the industry.

But apprenticeships are not just for new recruits; they are also a great tool for upskilling and retaining existing staff.

There are such a wide range of apprenticeships out there that you are sure to be able find one that suits your business needs. It needn’t be a daunting process, as there are many sources of information and expert training companies that can help.

Abta partners Damar Training and Northern Training Academy both provide Abta helplines and can advise you on the best approach, as well as being able to answer questions about recruiting apprentices and how the funding works.

Universities and colleges specialising in travel and tourism are also excellent places to look for new talent. Since 2014, universities and colleges have been a key group in the Abta Partner programme.

Education partners

We currently have 15 education partners (12 universities and three colleges), all producing high‑quality graduates who have specialised in travel and tourism and are keen to start work.

By becoming Abta education partners, the lecturers and students keep up to date with industry issues by attending Abta events and regional meetings, and through lectures from Abta representatives.

Before the pandemic, many of these students would have gained some experience of working in the industry, either through work experience or industry placements. However, the pandemic has greatly reduced these opportunities.

Many graduates are mature students, with some experience in travel, or a related sector, who chose a degree or college course as a way of honing their skills. As a result of Covid, Abta was also forced to pause its internship programme, which we have run successfully for several years, and hope to resume as soon as possible.

In 2020, we launched the Abta Regional Student Representatives project, where we match one or two students from our education partners with an Abta member or partner. The aim is to build regional links between education partners and Abta members and partners, which should lead to a better understanding of the challenges facing the industry. It should also help the sector to better understand what these fantastic students have to offer, in terms of their skills.

Student mentors

It says so much about how welcoming the travel industry is that, even during a pandemic, our Abta members and partners have been willing to set aside the time to mentor and advise students.

These relationships are mutually beneficial. We’ve already seen one of our university student representatives secure a job at a top travel firm as an apprentice. Students are also able to carry out targeted pieces of research for their industry mentors, which is useful for the industry but also a huge benefit to the students, as it means they can put their theoretical skills into practice.

There has never been a better time to access the skills, enthusiasm and positive mindset of our travel and tourism graduates. It gives them their first steps in an incredibly rewarding and interesting industry that has an important role to play in a post-pandemic world, not just economically, but as a vital contributor to the mental wellbeing of the nation.

For more information visit the education and career development section of the Abta website

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