Winner DoubleTree by Hilton, Cadbury House
ONE of the best known names in the hotel industry which is also one of the biggest employers in North Somerset is urging other firms to follow its lead in taking on apprentices.
With more young people finding it tougher to get jobs many are turning to apprentice schemes, not only to gain qualifications but also work experience in their chosen field.
Learning a skill or trade while training on the job and working from the bottom can be an excellent way into employment.
With links to a number of colleges across the area, the management team at DoubleTree by Hilton, Cadbury House in Congresbury, has taken on apprentices for many years.
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The four-star venue currently has 11 apprentices on its books while many others have gained full-time employment upon completion of their studies. The target is to provide at least 15 apprentices with work experience in the next 12 months across all departments of the hotel and leisure complex.
Colin Badcock, General Manager, said: "We employ apprentices in all areas of the business from the restaurant and the hotel to the health club and the spa.
"Apprentices bring fresh energy and skills to our organisation and it has been great to work closely with places like Weston College.
"We find the apprenticeship scheme works fantastically well for us. Not only does it give young people the chance to get out there and gain invaluable experience within a business like ours, but we have met some amazing talent over the years and ended up making them a permanent part of the team."
Neil Wrigley, who started as an apprentice in the kitchen nine years ago, is now Executive Head Chef in the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill.
"My time as an apprentice was invaluable as I was part of a team that had to deliver. This early grounding helped set me up to evolve as Cadbury House evolved into a boutique hotel which was awarded two rosettes for its food," said Mr Wrigley, who studied pro-cooking and hospitality at college before starting his professional career.
"Not in my wildest dreams would I have said back then that I would be in charge of a restaurant under the name of arguably one of the country's greatest chefs.
"Without my apprenticeship I wouldn't be here today. I can wholeheartedly vouch for it to anyone thinking about doing an apprenticeship," he said.
Cadbury House, which has 132 bedrooms and 250 people on its payroll, has a turnover of just under £8 million.
To reach Hilton's standards £1 million was spent by the owners of Cadbury House on upgrading it to a boutique- style hotel. This included the building of a new business lounge, installing air conditioning in all the conference and function rooms, refurbishing the bedrooms and putting in a state-of-the-art fire safety system.
The amount spent was on top of the £20 million that had already been invested in the site over the previous six years to improve facilities for hotel guests, diners and users of the health club.
Cadbury House's management team says that its apprentice programme forms part of its medium to long-term strategy.
"As a major employer in the region we have an obligation to provide the next line of hotel managers, chefs, fitness managers and spa therapists the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the workplace," said Mr Badcock.
"There is a lot of talent in the region and tapping into this, giving it an opportunity and letting it develop will help secure the future of the business," he said.