I arrived back in Britain on Tuesday after three weeks’ magnificent customer service in the United States and the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, thanks to BA, my luggage remained in Philadelphia. And I soon knew I was back in the UK by the ‘jobsworth’ at Heathrow who handled my missing luggage claim.
She tried to persuade me that it was my fault my luggage had not made it back, and couldn’t bring herself to offer an explanation, apology or any idea when it might be returned.
In my experience, customer service is improving in this country generally given a huge boost by the ‘volunteers’ at the Olympics. It needs to be sustained and nurtured if we are to grow our tourism and hospitality business.
It is not surprising that customer service is the single largest apprenticeship qualification, demonstrating the importance employers put on these skills in a variety of public and private sectors to grow their businesses by delivering excellent customer relations.
VisitBritain estimates that inbound tourism will increase by 4.5 per cent this year to £22.2bn — that’s almost a million more than 2014.
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said tourism was now a major driver of economic growth for Britain.
At the start of the New Year it’s time again for resolutions, not revolutions. My plea for this year is no changes to apprenticeship rules and regulations until the election is over and our new political masters impose their apprenticeship dreams — or from some of the parties’ proposals, their nightmares — upon us.
The sector needs to ensure the political parties understand the consequences of their manifesto proposals.
To let National Occupational Standards disappear seems a national scandal and enormous waste of resources and money to me
We do not need to repeat the apprenticeship loan debacle, which decimated level three and above apprenticeships until it was rescinded.
Currently, apprenticeship numbers are beginning to decline as employers vote with their feet against managing the funding and mandatory cash payments and potential apprentices and parents baulk at an apprenticeship without a recognised qualification.
I’ve been abroad for the past three weeks and had several informal discussions with employers and entrepreneurs from the United States, Caribbean and South America about their respective staff training and development.
It surprised me how complimentary and knowledgeable they were about our apprenticeship programmes in England.
This mirrors the international remarks made at November’s National Vocational Education and Training Conference at the Skills Show and the results of the latest Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) employer and learner satisfaction surveys of apprenticeships.
My main concern is the apprenticeship development we have pulled together over the years, culminating with the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (Sase) being thrown out with the bath water because a few disgruntled employers complained to Doug Richard and former Skills Minister Matthew Hancock wanted to make a name for himself.
If our current Skills Minister, Nick Bowles, is to be believed in saying he sees the Trailblazers as a pilot and not ‘early adopters’ then presumably there will be some analysis of the Trailblazer standards compared with the current National Occupational Standards (NOS).
From what I have seen, most of the Trailblazers have borrowed heavily from the NOS, so unless they show a significant improvement there seems little reason to change. Especially when the NOS are national, co-ordinated, cover all sectors with a single assessment strategy and are respected internationally, particularly by countries introducing work experience and work-place learning.
To let NOS disappear seems a national scandal and enormous waste of resources and money to me.
The final end test for the professional cookery Trailblazer will take two days and cost £2,000 to stage for each apprentice.
It will only test the apprentice’s ability to cook a variety of dishes in an examination environment, cooking one portion of each dish at a time and not their ability to perform in a commercial production environment. Should the apprentice fail their test, it will be for the employer to pay for the re-take. That’s bound to improve achievement rates. Don’t remember reading about that additional cost to the employer anywhere is BIS briefings.