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16th October 2020

Aston Marina, recent Best New Employer 2020 award winner in the NSCG Celebration Awards has proven the value of apprenticeships during COVID-19. We recently chatted with Neil Nicholls, Commercial Manager to hear how the hospitality business has adapted during the pandemic.

Q. Congratulations on winning your employer award at the NSCG annual Celebration Awards. What does this award mean to the team at Aston Marina?

A. On behalf of the team at Aston Marina I would like to thank NSCG for the award. The work we have done with yourselves over the last 12 months has really helped boost our relationship NSCG and their learners. This award really helps when recruiting for new students to join our apprentice scheme, and was very unexpected but greatly appreciated.

Q. The last few months have been challenging particularly in the hospitality sector in particular. How has the delivery of your apprenticeships had to adapt and change during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A. As a team here at Aston Marina, we made the decision to make every effort to adapt to the restrictions put in place and therefore managed to operate as an essentials shop and takeaway. As a result, we were able to keep a reduced level of food production operations going meaning we could continue to train Ali Gee (our apprentice chef). Silver linings are few and far between during such a rocky period but on this occasion it mean that more one on one time could be spent with Ali, which has had a huge positive impact on his leering and hands on experience.

Q. As a business, how have your operations had to change to meet the demands of customers? And how has your apprentice been involved in this change to the business to ensure the future of the venue.

A. We quickly adapted to change our food offering to an essentials shop and takeaway. Ali was a huge help with this and dealt with near vertical learning curve in his stride. Going from one day serving restaurant food to order to the next day, large volumes of takeaway food to the high restaurant style our customers expected from us. Within a few weeks, Ali had gained the knowledge and confidence to create dishes and be a key part of the takeaway setup.

Q. How valuable has your apprentice proven to be to the business during COVID-19?

A. Ali’s help during the lockdown has been invaluable. He has adapted to multiple positions in the kitchen, picking up new skills daily. Safety is the top of our agenda here at Aston Marina and Ali played a huge part in making sure all procedures that we put in place were followed.

Q. How do you see your apprenticeship programme changing over the next few months?

A. We have many new projects that are set to launch before Christmas, and therefore our apprenticeship scheme will continue to operate in full flow. We always make time for the right candidate so if there’s anyone out there reading this that thinks a career in hospitality is for them – please get in touch.

Q. Some businesses may understandably be cautious about taking on an apprentice at this time. What would your advice be to businesses looking to take on an apprentice through NSCG?

A. A few years back we were finding it more and more difficult to recruit the right candidate of fully trained chef that would be able to maintain the high standards we expect – so we decided to train our own! At this point we got in contact with NSCG to enquire about the apprentice programme. The level of learning support that NSCG offers is exceptional and we would highly recommend them.

For any business thinking about employing an apprentice, we strongly suggest considering this as an option. Not only is there additional government support but we have found a new team member that is set to progress through the ranks in the kitchen team.

Q. Have you applied for any funding etc to help you to develop the venue and get through this challenging time?

A. The furlough scheme has been a big help to us as it has to many other businesses and with the new government incentives to get younger people back into the workplace we are currently looking for our next apprentice!





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