Good news for school leavers in the West Midlands, the De Vere Academy opens for business in September 2011.
De Vere hotels are one of the most luxurious hotel chains in Britain, employing highly trained staff by the thousands. They run nearly a hundred hotels over five different brands, incorporating destination hotels, venues, luxury lodges and golf resorts.
The success of the hotel industry is wholly reliant on the abilities of the staff it employs as the directors of De Vere realized this at a very early stage. This remains one of their greatest selling point as an employer. A couple of years ago De Vere opened a new type of academy to encourage and inspire hospitality stars of the future through the provision of work based learning. De Vere academy offers two options to 16-24 year olds. Option 1 is to join Customer services. Option 2 is a Professional cookery apprenticeship. Now there are nine academies up and down the country, including three in London.
A potential recruit must show potential. Tenacity and an aptitude for learning are just the beginning. They must also develop a thick skin and a willingness to carry on when the workload starts to pile up. They must be willing to sacrifice a lot of time. Evenings, weekend and bank holidays off become a distant memory. But in the hospitality industry you work hard and play hard. Your friends are the people around you, they are the ones you relax with on your day off.
A graduate of 21 will find themselves in a position more advantageous than many of the University graduate trainees. While the uni students were learning the theory, the academy students were learning on the job. The uni students paid thousands in course fees, the academics paid their own way, working hard for a small wage. By the time the uni students clock in for the first time, the academics have years of service under their belt. And this is the important thing: The uni students are fresh faces. By then the academics will know their fellow employees well, having built up working relationships through good times and bad. These relationships will be important to them in future years.
Why do I know this? The forerunner of the De Vere academy was the Technical Apprenticeship scheme, with whom I served for years for years. It gave me an solid start in the hospitality trade, without which, a lot of my later achievements would not have been a success.
What was it like as an apprentice? Well it was tough, mentally, physically and emotionally. It took up my whole life, but it was fun too. The training camps, which took place, in those days, at a hotel in Coventry were the scene of much frivolity. Our final event, the climax of the training, was a Jacobean banquet, was a huge success. In the new format a a De Vere apprentice works five days a week, eight hours a day with two days out on a work placement. The work placement is not only with De Vere but with any business in the area. They are still looking after their graduates six months after they have finished their training.
I had a few questions to put to Kellie Rixon, the MD of the De Vere academy:
How is the academy funded?
This is a public-private initiative. We work in conjunction with the National Apprentice Service, our own De Vere group, industry partners and local government.
Do you have any more expansion planned?
Our first De Vere academy was launched in Stockport in 2010. We now have academies in Crewe, Milton Keynes, Liverpool and Wirral. We open Coventry and the West End later this year. Next year we will be opening in Leeds and Brighton. Our aim is to train 10,000 people over the next years.
Does De Vere hotels still take University Granduates as Trainee Managers?
Yes, our scheme for graduates goes from strength to strength with our divisional brands.
So the addition of the Academy to the West Midlands is a great boost for an area that held the highest unemployment in the country for the last year. It gives hope to a generation of school leavers that are entering an economy devoid of many opportunities.