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Hotel life gives students bright career insight

Posted: 27 April 2023

One of the area's most historic and luxurious hotels saw an influx of new faces before Easter as students from West Nottinghamshire College took over the kitchens, bars, spa, gym and restaurants.

This ‘hotel take-over’ was all part of an annual scheme for students to gain real-life work experience at Nottinghamshire’s four-star Thoresby Hall Hotel and Spa.

For an entire week, more than 40 catering, hospitality, beauty therapy and sports students from the college immersed themselves in busy jobs, mentored by the hotel’s team of supervisors and team leaders in the different departments within the 221-bedroomed hotel.

Taking on a range of the industry’s roles, students gained valuable, practical experience of working within a large, fully-operational hotel to complement their college-based training.

The learners, who are on a range of courses such as the Advanced Diploma in Professional Cookery, the Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership, and the Intermediate Diploma in Food and Beverage Service, took up positions as chefs, front-of-house staff, housekeepers and grounds maintenance operatives to provide them with additional skills in the industry, as well as inspiration for their future career choices.

They were joined by students on the Level 3 Beauty Therapy programme, the Advanced Foundation Diploma in Sports and the Advanced Introductory Diploma in Travel and Tourism who had experience in the hotel spa, pool and entertainment theatre respectively.

Food and beverage students Emilie Miller, Theo Dinan and Kaze Mathis swapped the restaurant setting for the hotel grounds, as they braved the elements and joined the grounds team with their duties in the hotel’s grassed terraces, croquet lawn and acres of parkland.

The girls worked with grounds team member Jen Rathband and head gardener Paul Jevon replenishing up to four tonnes of gravel across the pathways. Jen said: “I think it was a shock to the system at first for them, but the girls have built their way up and gathered strength each day and have shifted lots of gravel for us.  They’ve happily braved the rain this week with weeding the gardens as well. It’s great to see the areas where they’ve made a difference and it’s great for the students to experience jobs in the real world.”

Beauty therapy students Aimee Berry, Amelia Szwatro and Aimee Draper joined staff in the spa facilities to discover more about the range of treatments and facilities which guests staying at the hotel can enjoy.

Amelia Szwatro, 18, said: “I’ve learnt how this team does a thorough preparation of the therapist’s work area. I’ve really enjoyed working with the team. I’ve thought about working in a spa similar to this one – it’s really opened my eyes to new opportunities.”

Over in the Sherwood Restaurant, Danny Parnham spent time working with waitress Kelly Nyland, who was a West Notts College hospitality supervision student herself last academic year.

Danny, who studies on the Level 3 Hospitality and Supervision, has since been offered employment at the hotel said: “I’ve been working in the breakfast restaurant and learning how to lay all the tables. I’ve also been working in the upstairs bar, serving hot and cold drinks. I’ve learnt exactly how the table should be laid and and I’ve enjoyed perfecting my skills.”

Kelly Nyland, who now works at Thoresby Hall following her graduating from the college in 2022 said: “I serve guests both in the mornings and evenings in the Sherwood Restaurant. It’s great to be helping students this week, as I was in this same position last year.

“It’s great to give them the chance that I had and to be able to guide them. Danny has worked really well in the restaurant, and I’ve seen him improve his skills daily.”

Cole Nunn, 16, a student on the Advanced Foundation Diploma in Sports said: “We took part in all of the leisure activities such as the rifle shooting, archery and aqua gym. Staff took us through the task of how to clean the sauna and the steam rooms effectively as well as how to use the plant room where all of the water tanks are stored.

“We cleaned the changing rooms and pool area daily and were taught how to test the pool for chlorine and acid levels. It really was a great week to experience a role in a hotel setting.”

Head of health, education and service industries, Helen Wilcockson, said: “The second year of running hotel takeover at Thoresby Hall was surprisingly even better than last year. The team at Thoresby met the students with open arms and were all prepared to challenge them to excel in their new job roles.

“The students were enthusiastic and excited to be working in such a prestigious hotel. One of the learners got very emotional and stated she had only have seen places like this on Downton Abbey and never thought she would get the opportunity to spend time and work in such beautiful surroundings.

“The opportunities for the students following working at the hotel has been immense with at least seven over the last year gaining permanent employment. This partnership just goes from strength to strength and the department values and appreciates just how much time the hotel invests in the students’ development.”

Thoresby Hall Hotel’s general manager, Claire Fletcher said: “It was a pleasure to welcome back West Nottinghamshire College to provide their students with an opportunity to gain experience of working in a real-life environment, amongst a warm and supportive team, so that they can really understand what it feels like to work in the hospitality industry.

“Investing in the students is an investment in the future of hospitality, and we’re pleased to say that we’ve recruited several of the students who will be working with us part time alongside their studies.”

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