I have long held the belief that through tunnel vision and corporate protocol, we may well be dismissing solutions to the issues that we face. I read with some satisfaction, therefore, that in a bid to widen the net to recruit fresh talent into their business Virgin Airlines has foregone their previous ruling about not allowing people with tattoos or markings to be employed by them. This is a ruling that most airlines have in place and it occurred to me that sometimes it takes a disruptor like Sir Richard Branson with his ‘’screw it let’s do it’’ approach to break the mould and open other avenues to solving critical issues.
The Elephant in the room
The travel industry is desperately short of qualified people and even the unqualified who are willing to enter the industry to be educated, trained and commit to long-term employment – and there is some reasoning behind this. When we were facing the pandemic we were forced to let a lot of people go who have since found employment in other fields or become entrepreneurs. There is understandably some nervousness about entering an industry that is still seen to be vulnerable when facing this kind of adversity. Anyone in the industry not aware of this hesitance on the part of young talent is simply ignoring the Elephant in the room. The critical question is what do we do about it? We are certainly not an industry to just lie down and accept defeat so how do we create a new generation of young people who will be excited to enter what I believe is still one of the best industries in which to be employed in normal times?
The first way is to do exactly what Virgin has and embrace diversity. If any country can claim to be diverse in terms of race, culture, religion, skills and qualifications it is this great melting pot that we so fondly refer to as “The Rainbow Nation”. If we have learnt to embrace diversity to create a better society then why not carry this into choosing the ones we recruit for our industry? Let’s start looking past tattoos and any other forms of discrimination so that we have so many more candidates to choose from by simply widening the net.
Our great advantage
We certainly can cast our net a lot wider too, because a great advantage of this industry is that the barrier to entry is comparatively low. You need not have great academic qualifications to enter an industry which is right now very eager to educate, train and offer skills development programs for all who express a genuine desire to learn. You literally can work your way from the ground up, get ahead very rapidly and face solid long-term prospects. One of our recently appointed CFOs entered the industry just 10 years ago, with a Commerce degree behind him, but unable to find himself an opportunity to work and started as a Data Capturer! He is one of many success stories in our business, and the opportunities don’t only encompass travel professionals, there are many support functions to consider, The industry also offers travel incentives which give practical skills whilst recruits travel the world and this is a massive carrot for those who love to travel.
Passing the baton
In conclusion, one important point that needs to be made is that the travel industry has a lot of independent operators who have been around a long time and as much as we need them to be a part of the industry we see some that are not hiring new people or keeping entirely abreast with these rapidly changing times. I appeal to them to consider that we have an excellent opportunity right now to bring a fresh new breed of people into our industry, those who are brimming with new ideas and are generally much more tech-savvy than their older counterparts. Let’s look beyond the old ways, embracing diversity and welcoming young talent with open arms and a willingness to pass the baton to those who are faster, stronger and eager to win the race for their team. That way, everybody wins!LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER