Tell us when and how you first became involved in Springboard?
In 1996, I was a Director at the Hospitality Training Foundation (now People 1st) in addition to my responsibilities for labour market research, qualifications, training programmes and communications (yes a broad mix!) I assumed responsibility for Careers…that meant I inherited a Board place on what was then Springboard London – it had been set up six years earlier and was a drop in specialist careers centre working specifically with schools and the hotel and catering job centre in Denmark Street. HtF were then a founding partner. I quickly realised that Springboard could provide a solution to some of the challenges we were identifying in our research (poor perceptions, skills shortages, labour turnover, need to attract talent), but it needed drastic modernisation, taking nationwide, a higher profile and proper investment. Luckily, I was able to help with that and identified some Government pump prime funding, wrote the Business Plan and after failing to find someone foolhardy enough to take on the challenge, found myself ensconced in Denmark Street with a job to do!
If you had to explain the work of Springboard to an alien in a lift, what would you say?
The Springboard Charity makes a difference to people’s lives by helping young people achieve their potential; supporting unemployed adults as well as people living in poverty or facing multiple barriers to work into worthwhile jobs in hospitality, leisure and tourism; it equips each group with the education, information, knowledge, skills and work experience to give them the motivation and confidence to succeed and provides support before and after employment. Springboard UK makes a difference to business by promoting the industry as a great place to work, attracting talent and helping our investing business partners achieve their people or citizenship goals. Both sides of the organisation work together in a supply and demand model. Of course, all this would come out faster speaking in alien!
What do you think is the biggest political threat to the UK hospitality industry today (or maybe tomorrow - you might want to wait for the result to answer this one!)?
Cutting of the supply of labour from overseas – whether it is from the EU or further afield. We simply cannot replace the numbers involved from the indigenous population – because we are at almost full employment, we are experiencing a fall in the numbers of young people entering the labour market because of the drop in birth rates 16+ years ago and that will not improve for about 10 years, there’s competition from other sectors and we are continuing to experience growth. We need a sympathetic approach to immigration and employment of overseas people to be able to continue to thrive as an industry and boost the economy
Can you name the single achievement you are most proud of when considering the many great projects Springboard initiates?
It’s so difficult – every time I see someone who has turned their life around as a result of Springboard’s support, it brings a lump to my throat and makes my day. But I guess the single biggest achievement is the fact that Springboard has not only survived, but has flourished and grown from a small London outfit, to a high profile, national Charity - when lots of other initiatives don’t survive the pump prime period.
If you could get volunteers to agree and have the courage yourself, what would be your ultimate fundraising challenge for the charity and who would you ask to do it?
The Hospitality Olympics – a nationwide event to crown the champions for every facet of the industry – every organisation would take part, pay to enter individuals & teams; audiences would buy tickets and sponsors would flock to support. It would be televised, would go viral through social media, and we would raise shed loads of money and achieve our objectives at the same time….I’d ask everyone in the industry to take part – we would raise the profile, create new role models and everyone would want to join the industry!