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More to the job than pulling pints;Further Education;News amp; Opinion

THE UK pub industry needs to fill a staggering 230,000 vacancies over the next five years - 630 jobs a week - to solve its problems of recruitment and retention.

It must also solve its serious image problem: young people, schools and colleges, do not see the licensed industry as a serious job or training option.

The industry is huge - a pound;23 billion business, with about 61,000 pubs and bars in the UK. They serve 25 million meals each week and the trend is towards "super pubs", closer to restaurants, with many more staff.

According to research conducted by Leisure Careers UK, the British Institute of Inkeeping's careers initiative, 63 per cent of the licensed retail sector is having trouble recruiting quality staff. One company cited labour turnover of 350 per cent.

Conrad Lashley, professor of licensed retail management at Leeds Metropolitan University said this week: "Everyone knows that staff turnover in licensed retailing is high - but no one knows what 'high' is, and how firms compare with the industry average.

"During our research we discovered that some companies had no idea what their staff turnover levels were.

"The issues of recruitment and particularly retention have been swept under the carpet for too long. I have listened to stories of managers recruiting 11 staff a week for a six-month period - when the outlet only has 50 staff.

Students had very negative perceptions of the industry. Their view was of old-fashioned environments, of being premise-bound with little responsibility and boring work.

Their experience of retailers such as Marks and Spencer and McDonalds, was in complete contrast: they were seen to recognise high-flyers,giving visible rewards, and offering support against rude customers. Research showed that the industry was not exploiting its potential to dip into an enormous pool of young, fresh talent.

Maureen Heffernan, head of Leisure Careers UK, explained that parents and teachers could not see the industry as a business: "They cannot see beyond the local pub." In fact the business involved all the skills of running any retail outlet, including cash flow, stock control, marketing, and customer service.

There was also a sound career structure with people entering after school, with a good degree, or as a mature employee. Last year the institute awarded more than 46,00 qualifications in licensed retailing.

The public perception was of long hours and low pay. But pay and reward packages for licensee professionals are much better than the public thinks, said Ms Heffernan.

She said salaries and remuneration of pound;35,000 were common while some couples enjoyed earnings of pound;70,00 or over.

"At a relatively young age licensed professionals are managing complex, multi-million businesses with the responsibility for the development of up to 60 staff. They need a high skills level and the remuneration reflects this."

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