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The value of apprenticeships

With the Event Management Apprenticeship programme set to be a major talking point at International Confex 2018, CN reflects on an apprenticeship scheme in Leeds and hears from selected event professionals on the value of such programmes.

Apprenticeships could become increasingly important to the world of hospitality with Brexit likely to provide significant challenges to recruiting and retaining European staff. Allied to a shortage of talent being nurtured, apprenticeships offer a way for young people to gain theoretical education yet also valuable on the job experience. 

Phil Veal, executive chef at the Marriott, Leeds says it is important that venues offer apprentice schemes, “as there is nothing more valuable than practical experience in the workplace”. 

“Conferences at the Marriott play a large role in the development of our apprentices as they offer them a way of progression and come with certain challenges that you may not find in the day-to-day running of a kitchen.” 

“We start our apprentices on smaller conferences; they may help with the conference lunches or tea breaks, for example. This begins to develop the apprentice’s time management skills.

“As the apprentice develops, we will then bring them into the restaurant. This is when the real challenges begin in the form of banquets and conferences. Apprentices learn how to mass-produce meals on a larger scale, sometimes for up to 300 people. It tests patience, as extreme attention to detail is needed.”

Veal is convinced skills learnt by the apprentices when catering for conferences aren’t something that can be taught in a classroom. “They learn the differences in prepping for different size conferences and the importance of teamwork,” he notes. “The overall success of the conference often depends on the food and we have seen some excellent success stories as a result of our apprentice scheme. One apprentice who I worked with at the York Marriott for five years is now my junior sous chef, having invested a lot of my own time into his career. He is passionate, eager to learn, and is now progressing because of his hard work. Conferences definitely helped with his progression, having tested him but rewarded him.”

Head of ConferenceLeeds Jennifer Young, tells CN that other venues across the city have introduced similar initiatives as the Marriott. 

“It’s so important to encourage new talent across the whole of the industry through apprentice schemes such as this, whether it’s in the kitchen, working in logistics or office-based liaising with organisers to meet their specific needs. 

“Apprenticeships are a great way of learning on the job as well as helping with career progression, and are proving essential in keeping the conferencing scene, certainly in Leeds, innovative and fresh.”

Anita Lowe, MD of Venues and Events International, is one agency pioneer of bringing young talent into the industry. “A couple of years ago, we worked with the Department of Work and Pensions to introduce apprentices to the venues and events industry,” she tells CN. “One was a young lady called Megan Harper, who we ended up taking on full-time in a creative executive role. It's vital that all leaders look at the full range of opportunities to nurture potential talent and explore new ways to introduce people to an industry they may not have previously known much about. 

“Although Megan has since moved on, we've continued to offer both apprenticeships and work experience opportunities where possible. As a result, not only have we helped a range of people decide whether or not the events industry is the right career path for them, but we've also been able to open doors and set them on their way to a potentially successful career.” 

Zoe Turner, deputy events manager at Trinity House, says the industry has a duty to encourage young people to gain expertise. “There’s no better way than to work as an apprentice under the guidance of expert professionals. Not only is this invaluable to the apprentice looking to get a foot in the door, it benefits the venue/agency to have enthusiastic trainees keen to do their best to impress – and, moreover, operating within the organisation’s ‘modus operandi’ without the need for retraining. This relationship could also be a test start of employment on a more permanent basis... for instance, while the apprentice is still in training, the ‘student’ could be directed to research a specific topic on behalf of the venue/agency, and then be rewarded with an apprenticeship upon the successful conclusion of the internship.” 

“CEO of drp Group, Dale Parmenter, says his agency has a history of developing new talent, through educational partnerships, work experience and interns. 

“Three of our board members started out as work experience students 25 years ago. So, the apprenticeship scheme is a great way of getting young people into the industry, where they get hands-on practical experience along with formal training and a chance to earn. 

“We have had enormous success in recent years with apprentices, recruiting 90% into full-time employment. 

“We currently have six apprentices working at drp and we remain fully committed to the scheme.”

21-up for Realise

Event and live communications training agency Realise has come of age with its apprentice training, recently announcing its 21st trainee eventprof to get with its programme. 

Realise launched its Event Assistant Apprenticeship Programme at International Confex 2017 and CEO David Preston says: “It was just a year ago, with the support of Mash Media, Mark Riches of First Agency and Dale Parmenter of drp Group, that we launched and, since then, employers from many sectors have embraced the programme, with the common aim to enable the next generation of event managers to get a foothold into a career in events.” 

Preston adds that the three current cohorts of apprentices with Realise have attended a series of face-to-face workshops held in a diverse set of locations. This was to expose them to differing venues that they may one day be using to execute an event. These include Somerset House, RSA House, Twickenham Stadium and the offices of event agency drp Group.  

Preston explains that the young trainees also complete a vast array of work online. A Learning Management System enables them to gather a portfolio of evidence of all the work they have done to learn the skills and gain the knowledge necessary.

“These are exciting times for our industry, with a renewed emphasis on learning and developmentm so should you wish to join the great names that are paving the way, then do get in contact with Realise,” Preston adds.