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Why quality apprenticeships are key to addressing the skills challenge in travel

Guest blog from Ben Bouldin, associate vice president and managing director UK & Ireland, Royal Caribbean International and chair of the Travel Apprenticeship Board

The travel industry has never been more vibrant than it is today - and it needs to be if we are going to meet our customers’ diverse range of travel expectations. Whether travelling for leisure, business or another reason, the experience an individual has from the start of their journey, to their destination and back again, is influenced by our people.

People with the right skills and talent that make my business stand out are critical to me. That’s why I applied to be part of the Travel Apprenticeship Board, and subsequently agreed to act as its Chair. The travel industry has been a slow adopter of apprenticeships, with some large companies actively employing apprentices, and a relatively small number of SMEs taking part in the programme.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy means apprenticeships are now higher on the agenda than ever before. While the levy is a tax, it gives our businesses, and the travel industry as a whole, the perfect opportunity to tackle our skills challenges head on and develop the talent pipeline we need for our future.

It’s suggested that our industry needs to recruit around 50,000 staff by 2024. The online marketplace has changed the face of how we operate and compete and, as a result, we need to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce. In 2016, 94% of travel employers reporting vacancies believed they remained unfilled because of a lack of applicants with the right skills. This compared to 74% across the entire economy – so what should we do about it?

I believe good quality, robust apprenticeships are key to addressing our skills challenge. Research indicates that 80% of companies that invest in apprentices report an increase in staff retention, but that's just the beginning – there is also compelling evidence that progressing your brightest and best talent through apprenticeships can significantly boost the bottom line.  Gone are the days when an apprenticeship was for someone starting out in their career – now apprenticeships are relevant for anyone who wants to develop and progress.

Working alongside other committed employers on the Travel Apprenticeship Board, I oversee the external quality assurance of the new travel consultant apprenticeship and, together with People 1st, who manages this process, we will ensure that our apprenticeships are working in practice and deliver value added results.

With the combined travel and aviation sector contributing what is estimated to be well in excess of £40 million per year to the apprenticeship levy, we need employers, training providers and assessment organisations – who are all critical to delivering a great apprenticeship experience – to join together. I’m excited to be doing something to address our skills challenge and invite you to join me to do the same. Find out more about apprenticeships and let us know how you want to be involved by registering here:

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