Making hospitality a career of choice

A new training academy at Macdonald Aviemore Resort is offering fresh hope to local young jobseekers and is re-positioning hospitality as a career of choice.

“We recognise, especially in the Highlands, that hospitality has a bit of an image problem”, said Angela McLean, people development manager at Macdonald Aviemore Hotels and Resort.

“It doesn’t seem to be offered as a viable career path in schools – we want to try and change that.”

In order to attract, engage and retain young stars of the future, Angela and the directors of the Macdonald group, in consultation with Fergus Ewing, Minister for Business Energy and Tourism, devised a long-term strategy; to recruit locally and develop a course which offered a national qualification but which could also feed into the Macdonald management traineeship scheme.

Angela McLean

“We were convinced that recruiting locally was important, not only to demonstrate our commitment to the area but also to provide an authentic Highland experience for our guests,” Angela added.

After a meeting with Patricia Anderson, of Barnardos, the Macdonald Aviemore Hospitality Training Academy was founded and began in August this year. It works in conjunction with the Barnardos Shared Apprenticeship Programme and operates in partnership with Muckrach Country House Hotel, where the students will spend eight weeks getting a taste of working for a smaller property.

The Academy currently has 10 recruits on board, a number it is looking to expand steadily year on year.

Ricky MacDonald heard of the new scheme but initially thought at 22 he may be too old to apply.

“I had already been to college and studied drama which I felt had made me a people person, but I was at a bit of a loss what to do next,” he said.

“I worked in a few bars in Inverness and did some support work with people with disabilities, but I never felt I had any kind of real structure and career path – I had never considered working my way up through a hotel. Then I heard about this course with Barnardos; I went along to the initial meeting and passed the selection interview.”

Successful candidates are enrolled on a year-long course. The first three weeks are spent in the classroom obtaining a certificate of work readiness, before going live into a full-time SVQ2 in hospitality. Subsequent blocks divide the apprentices’ time equally in food and beverage, including the kitchen, followed by three months in Rooms Division, three months in sales, HR and finance and finally, depending on aptitude, candidates get to select an area of speciality. For candidates like Ricky, the opportunities are endless.

“I’m not dismissing university or college, but when it comes to hospitality, a Modern Apprenticeship is the way forward,” he added.

“That face-to-face contact with the customer is invaluable, which you don’t get in a classroom environment. I now get paid to learn, I’ve got staff accommodation and am part of an organisation that employs people round the world. With so many different job roles, hospitality really opens doors. All my mates are quite jealous. I would definitely recommend it.”

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