Compass Group: Unlocking opportunities for young people in the hospitality sector

At Compass Group UK and Ireland we believe passionately that everyone must have the opportunity to develop and progress. While we are food and support services business – we describe ourselves as a “people” business first. Made up of over 45,000 employees, mainly in frontline roles, we know we have the opportunity to change people’s lives.  

We were the first large company in the hospitality sector to sign up to the Social Mobility Pledge last year, which underlines our commitment to equal opportunities and help improve social mobility across the UK. The educational and qualification barriers that exist in some industries simply don’t exist in ours, so we have a unique opportunity to help thousands of people progress and grow across the UK. It’s something many of our senior leadership are passionate about, having come from a range of different socioeconomic backgrounds themselves. 

Recently we developed career pathways ensuring there are opportunities for all. We know that we can offer that precious ‘First Rung’ on the ladder – the first job that enables a colleague to gain confidence and skills – as well as the chance to progress through our ranks.  

We work with many young people entering the market place and there is not a one size fits all, which is why we have developed multiple partnerships focusing on young people in education and adults who experience barriers to employment or are returning to work.  

We proudly support the skills development of existing employees through a comprehensive suite of 

apprenticeships, but also recognise that outreach and pre-employability support is as crucial as our provision for Compass colleagues. Unlike many apprenticeships and learning programmes across the UK, Compass is proud to have been able to continue both its apprenticeships and pre-employability programmes throughout lockdown. We have supported over 200 apprenticeships these past 12 months. 

We continue to work with partners such as Springboard and the National Care Leavers CovenantThe ClinkTower ProjectsStep 22The Wallich and Social Bite, to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds into work. We know it can be daunting to take that first step seeking employment. There are fantastic organisations out there who can provide support. 

A great example is of what these partnerships can bring, saw us working with Springboard and National Care Leaves Covenant to transform our Gateway to Employment programme into a 3-week virtual syllabus to allow learners to continue when the pandemic hit. This cohort was the most successful ever with a 100% success rate and all learners going on to gain employment within Compass. 

We have a wide range of jobs available for people of all ages and have been really encouraged by the success of the Government’s Kickstart scheme and were one of the first employers to sign up to the scheme. We have already proved successful in placing candidates into full-time positions within Compass. We started with 50 placements which varied from - Front Of House, Culinary, Barista, Customer Service, Events Assistants, IT/Digital, Procurement, Nutritionists, Patient Catering Assistant, Cellar Porter, People Operations Assistants, Trainee Accountant, Kitchen Porter and Retail Customer Service Assistants and have committed to 500 by the end of 2021. The Kickstart Pre-Employment Programme has had a remarkable 100% completion rate with all learners gaining Level 1 Award in Skills For Employment.  

We put a lot of work into ensuring Kickstarters are well supported, which is important part of their success. We know it’s not enough to just have a role, but the access to mentoring and guidance is key. Each Kickstarter has a two-week welcome to Compass Group. They work towards an entry level pre-employability City & Guilds qualification, during this time they meet other Kickstart candidates. These young people have been out of work, and it is a good way of welcoming them to the business and making them feel part of the family, with the added bonus of achieving something in those first two critical weeks. The feedback from those first two weeks shows that their confidence levels have increased, preparing them to go out to their work experience opportunity within the business. 

Our Kickstart candidates then work towards ongoing training modules. It could be about customer service. If they are doing front of house, for example, there is a waitering module that they can work towards. It is relevant to what they are doing in their placement and is ongoing. We have found that mentoring brings huge benefits, especially for younger employees. Therefore, we have built in progress reviews with mentors, who are provided to them at the outset. A progress review is completed every month, recording the progress they are making and the skills they have learned, and to start talking about their aspirations for the end of the programme as regards remaining with us, and what opportunities are available for them.  

As part of the programme we also build in monthly welfare calls. Our apprenticeship team touches base with the candidates to ensure that they are okay from a health and safety and from a welfare perspective. We also have added into month four of their programme information, advice and guidance sessions. We talk to individuals about what they have gained from the experience and what the next steps are for them. That is really critical and we also look at what opportunities are available, from full and part-time roles to apprenticeship vacancies. We pass the Information Advice and Guidance (IAG) document to our resourcing team who then bring the roles to the kickstart candidates and arrange next steps into sustainable employment.  

As the hospitality industry starts to re-open, these opportunities are now coming through, which is really positive. We see this programme as supporting our future talent pipeline and work to identify opportunities for them then to join our apprenticeship programme.   

Our apprenticeship programme has proven to be a vital tool in our skills and development activity. We now offer 36 different apprenticeships across the business. This year we hope to support 500 people with apprenticeships. They are a great way of supporting younger people with their skills development and provide a clear path to follow as colleagues seek to develop and grow their skills. 

We share the same desire as the One Million Chances campaign to unlock opportunities for young people, and the hospitality industry is well positioned to affect positive change. As the UK’s largest food and support services provider, we have scale and geographic breadth to offer thousands of opportunities across the country and look forward to playing our part.  


For further information about working at Compass – you can go to:  

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