During a major skills shortage in the travel industry, Saira Hospitality is training young people, refugees and former prison inmates to work in premium hotels at its new east London hospitality school. Jenny Southan reports

Having worked globally for the past seven years with brands such as Habitas and Bunkhouse, in destinations such as Mexico, the British Virgin Islands, the US and Namibia, Saira Hospitality opened its first expert-led hospitality school in London’s Shoreditch, in May.

Helping to fill the gap between job seekers and employers, Saira Hospitality partners with hotels who sponsor the training of potential new recruits. After the students have completed Saira’s six-week course, almost all of them can expect to have a job in a top hotel at the end of it.

So far, Saira has agreements with nine hotels in the city, including the Hoxton, CitizenM, Inhabit, Nobu Portman Square, Hilton Bankside, Iconic Luxury Hotels, Edyn and Pan Pacific.

Trainees will have a chance to visit the hotels to attend workshops and learn about operations there, with a view to deciding if they prefer to work front- or back-of-house, and what kind of position might best suit them.Saira HospitalityGreg Früchtenicht, director of partnerships, says: “Great talent can be found when organisations are willing to source from and invest in their immediate communities. With the support of our nine hiring partners, we believe that our first school in London will usher in a new approach to community impact and employability in London, and we’re beyond excited to continue.”

Saira sources students through affiliations with local charities, mentorship schemes and government organisations such as Key4Life, which works with young people who have been released from prison, homeless charity Crisis, refugee employment initiative Breaking Barriers and the Department of Work and Pensions.Saira HospitalitySaira Hospitality says its programme “allows hotels to build stronger, more meaningful connections with their local communities, whilst developing a new sustainable pipeline of talent”.

The aim is to instil new-found skills and confidence in students, taking them through a tailored curriculum that is “proven to create personal growth and lasting careers for graduates”.

Harsha L’Acqua, CEO and founder Saira Hospitality, says: “Our London school is born from the same purpose that guides our global work. We bridge the gap between local communities and the hospitality industry, supporting the growth and development of local people, while helping our industry rethink their standard hiring practices. This connects more deeply with neighbourhoods, and reduces staff turnover rates, which have never been higher.”

Up until recently, Saira’s global schools have assumed a pop-up model. This has meant working with soon-to-open properties in their pre-launch phase to help source, train and hire previously overlooked talent.Saira HospitalityHowever, in London, it’s developing more long-lasting model that will see multiple schools running each year to help create lasting career pathways for local people and establish a sustainable new talent pipeline for local operators. It is also considering providing training for people looking to work in restaurants.

Over the last seven years, more than 250 students have graduated from Saira’s global schools and continued to have careers in hospitality. In London, the organisation’s curriculum has been adapted specifically for the local market to ensure that graduates can seamlessly enter a job upon completion.

Saira has set itself apart from traditional hospitality schools by identifying employment opportunities before the course begins, guaranteeing every graduate a job interview with one of the hotels partners following the programme.Saira HospitalitySaira says: “We nurture undiscovered talent via a curated combination of practical work experience and skill rotations inside our partner hotels. Throughout the programme, we weave in essential life skills such as leadership, emotional intelligence and communication skills we know are essential to thrive in the industry, and to personally flourish.

“Our work prepares graduates for long-lasting careers. It instils confidence and motivation to grow and develop in their new careers – a solution which has never been so desperately needed in our city. The year-on-year turnover of Saira graduates is just 10 per cent, compared with industry averages of 60 per cent.

“We source our students through meaningful partnerships with local and national non-profits, local authorities and government organisations. These partners include refugee employment charities, youth empowerment groups, mentorship programmes for ex-offenders and the DWP and local Job Centres in the city.

“We have also created partnerships with a collective of wider brands and organisations to support the journey of our students. As well as working with our sponsoring hotel partners and talent partners outlined above, from free breakfasts with Dishoom, daily coffees from AllPress, complimentary access to CODE Hospitality and cooking classes with Made in Hackney, we’re uniting our neighbours in and around Redchurch Street to celebrate the power of collaboration and help inspire our students throughout the programme.”