The UK hospitality industry offers a variety of career opportunities. Bob Cotton gives his advice on how to get a slice of the action

Britain attracts 16 million overseas visitors every year and tourism, hospitality and leisure are worth more than £110bn to the economy, providing two million jobs in some 300,000 establishments. Hospitality and tourism are the main - sometimes the only - economic generators in some regions of the country. But they are also key support elements in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, colleges, offices, factories and even the armed forces, where the provision of high-quality catering facilities is of paramount importance.

What's more, the industry continues to grow. In the last 15 months more than 220 hotels - representing 19,000 rooms - opened in the UK, the biggest period of hotel construction in the industry's history. Since 2002, over 74,000 rooms have opened and a further 40,000 new rooms are planned for the years running up to the 2012 Olympic Games.

Restaurants have made huge strides too. London is now widely regarded as one of the restaurant capitals of the world and there are over 130 Michelin-starred establishments in the UK; 20 years ago there were just a handful. This turnaround has been largely achieved by British chefs trained in British colleges. Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Gary Rhodes are household names, while Marcus Wareing, Chris Galvin, Angela Hartnett and Paul Heathcote are among the many other British names who are making the culinary headlines.

There is hardly a region of Britain that does not benefit from the tourism and hospitality industry, and it provides large-scale job and career opportunities. However, as an industry it suffers from severe skill and people shortages. Why is this? Research carried out by Springboard UK, the industry's recruitment and careers advisory organisation, tends to support anecdotal evidence: the image of long, unsociable hours, hard work and poor pay puts off many young people. However, the industry is changing rapidly. In fact, it offers skilled people a range of opportunities both in the UK and internationally: jobs in the kitchen, restaurant, front of house and backstage, as well as all manner of supervisory and management roles.

It doesn't stop there. A graduate can become a manager of a hotel, restaurant or leisure attraction in their early twenties. The manager of a top London hotel earns a six-figure sum; top chefs are equally well paid. Talented chefs and customer-service staff are in huge demand and all have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world. At the same time, many of the industry's traditional employment practices, such as split shifts, are disappearing. A five-day week is now commonplace and conditions of work can match the best across all industries.

Some of the work may not be easy: dealing with the public can try anyone's patience! Working in the kitchen can be hard work and you need to keep your wits about you at peak times in a busy restaurant. You also need a sharp sense of business: in almost every job in hospitality you need to use your initiative and common sense.

For those with a managerial bent there are more than 30 universities offering undergraduate education in various forms of hospitality and tourism. Few major companies now recruit people straight from school into their management development programmes. Students with an aptitude for craft skills can consider a growing number of colleges working with the newly established National Skills Academy for Hospitality. The Academy is run by a board made up of employers with the support of leading companies such as Barcelo hotels, Sodexo, InterContinental hotels, Travelodge, Accor hotels and McDonald's restaurants. Employers work with academy-recognised colleges and other centres to ensure learners get the development they require by providing masterclasses in practical skills, offering coaching and mentoring support and advising on curriculum development.

The best way of getting to know what the industry is all about is to take a part-time job in a hotel before you commit yourself to a college course. Working for just a few hours a week provides the opportunity to understand that the secret of success in any catering establishment is teamwork. And don't forget that you also need to love your customers: that way they'll love you too and keep you in business!

Bob Cotton is the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association,

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn