Armagh City Hotel Academy offering staff ‘growth’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘progression’

There is a common perception that many people turn to the hospitality industry as a ‘stop gap’ to earn some money at the weekends or whilst going through university, with the hope that something better will come along down the line. Armagh City Hotel are keen to disperse this myth.

The hotel has recently started providing National Vocational Qualification’s (NVQ) to members of staff to help them develop in their careers and aspirations.

“It’s not just a stop gap. It’s not just a job,” says Siobhan Maxwell, the senior HR Advisor at Armagh City Hotel. “You can have a career and we can invest in you, all while earning as you learn.”

The courses, which include a range of standard modules, are also tailored to staff based on what their role currently is, and how they see that role developing and progressing throughout the hotel.

If needed, they also include essential skills such as Maths, English and ICT.

The programme is offered by People 1st via a registered awarding body, with the programmes fully funded for people aged 16 to 24. These work-based training programmes allow participants to work, get paid and gain an NVQ at Level 2 or 3.

So as to provide equal opportunities across all staff, Armagh City Hotel are themselves funding those over the age of 24 who wish to take part in the courses. They are also assessed by managers in the hotel, who will be able to attain their Assessor Award.

“We wouldn’t want the age restriction to be a hindrance to anybody that wants to go through this programme, so long as they are committed to the hotel, we are fully committed to their training and development,” Siobhan explained.

“It was also so important to us to offer our managers who have been here for years with such dedicated service and have worked their way up, an exciting opportunity to achieve a qualification through this programme as well.”

Those involved in the programmes have one day a week in the classroom with an assessor from People 1st, which is then followed by coursework and tasks. Managers then assess their on the job experience and upload the results to People 1st, where the work is further assessed.

Speaking on the benefits of the programmes to staff, Siobhan said: “Not only do the staff know we are dedicated to their development and progression, which makes them feel valued and increases productivity and creates a happy working environment, but they can do it all during working hours – who doesn’t want to earn a living and learn a new skill at the same time. I think as its also on the job assessments, by their own manager that they have a relationship with, it removes the pressures and the anxiety from the assignments and tasks they need to perform, so it’s a lot more relaxed.

“They’re getting something that they mightn’t have the time to go and do outside of work, it’s really flexible.

“We’ve got so many supervisory roles, management roles, back-office roles and a lot of people here have been here for 10, 15 and even the 20 years that we’ve been open. There are a vast number of career opportunities here, it’s not just a stop gap. If you enjoy hospitality and thrive off that buzz, this NVQ programme can give you the chance to gain a qualification in the sector that you love. We can invest in you, build you up and give you the skills needed so you can work your way up the ladder here.”

Siobhan says that this extends to school leavers who may not know what they want to do yet.

“Come and work here, see if hospitality is the place for you. There’s the opportunity to work and learn” she explained. “There’s a lot that this course can offer people if they’re unsure of what they want to do.”

The courses enable and equips staff to get that edge to help them stand out when progressing their career.

Siobhan said: “When we’re offering the NVQ’s, we tailor it around where you’re working now in the hotel and where you see yourself going. There are mandatory modules that everybody has to do but you sit with your manager or your assessor at the start and you can select which other modules you want to include. Whether it’s customer service, wine tasting, food standards, hygiene standards, there is so much on offer!”

The courses are already having an impact amongst hotel staff, with those involved praising the versatility of the programmes.

Liam McKenna is one of the Bar Staff who is undertaking the Level 2 Hospitality course. He said: “The reason I love hospitality so much is because it is the art of making others feel welcome, comfortable, and at home. I believe this hospitality course is a huge steppingstone in my career and it can help me progress even further within this hotel and this sector.”

Kristiana Cuanane, a Housekeeper who is also doing a Level 2 Hospitality course, added: “I love doing this course, I have been able to get my essential skills as well as this qualification. I can do it while I am in work and learn as I earn. It will be so beneficial to me in my job and for progression within the hotel – I love my job and the only way to do great work is to love what you do!”

Megan O’Hare, another staff member at hotel, said: “It’s good to get a classroom experience. Hospitality is so fast paced so it’s good to get a bit of background.”

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