Ollie Williamson outside Ollie's Restaurant in Torquay

Rethink work in Hospitality & Tourism says South Devon College

Joe Cooper
Authored by Joe Cooper
Posted Friday, May 7, 2021 - 10:17am

As the hospitality and tourism sectors gear up to fully re-open later this month a Devon college is hoping to change the perception of jobs in the sector.

South Devon College offers a range of hospitality and tourism qualifications and says that jobs in the sector shouldn’t be seen as just a stop gap but as a career with good opportunities for progression.

Currently there are more than 1,000 tourism businesses in Torbay employing over 12,000 people and that’s set to increase with multi-million pound investments in new hotels across the Bay.

 “The time for choosing a career in the tourism and hospitality sector has never been better,” said Lynn Stephens, Head of Leisure and Hospitality Industries at South Devon College and Chair of the English Riviera Destination Management Plan Group. “We have so many opportunities coming to the Bay with the reopening of existing businesses, the new brands and investments into the visitor economy, aligned with huge growth projected for UK staycations.

 “Anyone who is interested in training or upskilling will have an exciting range of career paths opening up in the coming months and years”. 

Chef and co-owner of Ollies in Torquay, Ollie Williamson studied at South Devon College and says he learnt a lot on his course that still helps him today.

“I was never academic and always wanted to be a chef,” explained 28 year old Ollie, whose family ran the Tudor Rose café in Torquay for many years.

 “I studied at South Devon College for two and a half years and I had a great mentor there and the college gave me a lot of support and structure. They also have great local and national connections and I learnt management skills, managing large groups, costings of menus and dealing with people, all skills I need to run my business.”

The English Riviera attracts 4.5 million visitors a year generating £435 million and that figure will grow as more international companies invest in the region.

Hotel group Accor is just one of several building new hotels in Torbay; the Mercure and Ibis Styles. Kayleigh Ryan, Talent Acquisition Director for Northern Europe with Accor, says there are up to 150 job opportunities at their hotels alone.

“The job opportunities are across reservations, reception, facilities, maintenance and food and beverage. Then you have more senior opportunities in management or at supervisor levels.”

Kayleigh explains there are also opportunities for career progression within the tourism and hospitality sector.

“Within Accor we are present in 110 countries. You may start in Torquay but you could go on to Australia, America or Canada – we also have a huge presence in Europe. Whatever appeals to you there is a brand, a hotel and a job opportunity.”

Rachel Jackson, Tourism and Hospitality Management lecturer at University Centre South Devon agrees and says now is the time to pursue a meaningful career in the sector.

 “There’s Government funding available, as well as financial incentives for apprenticeships, allowing employers to invest in and develop their teams to ensure their businesses are able to bounce back from the impact of the last 12 months, making the most of the huge demand from locals and visitors as restrictions are lifted.” 

Former mature student, Kerry Godley decided to return to full time education at South Devon College’s University Centre, UCSD, to enhance her career prospects. “Part of my job was running events and I really enjoyed it and decided I needed a qualification to underpin it. I did some research and South Devon College came up. I emailed them and it snowballed from there.”

Kerry studied a Foundation Degree in Events Management and said the lecturers were all completely supportive and the modules were spot on. “Everything was of value and pulled together. It felt like being at a private school because we were a small cohort it felt like we had one to one teaching.” Kerry is now working in events management in the South East.

With lockdown restrictions easing and confidence returning South Devon College is seeing interest grow in its range of hospitality and tourism courses. For aspiring adult chefs, the Let’s Cook taster programme starts in June. A range of full time courses are available from September, and the University Centre is accepting applications for its Higher Apprenticeship and Foundation Degree programmes.

Former student and restaurant owner Ollie says the last year has been tough but he’s excited about re-opening. “We have lots of bookings which is positive and Torquay is developing and will only get busier which is exciting.”

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