Experts Grow Project

Cornish hospitality service is centre stage with innovative national project

Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall has secured funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to create a pioneering project with partners Watergate Bay Hotel, St Austell Brewery, Cornwall College and Visit Cornwall.

The ‘Experts Grow’ project aims to increase the productivity and perceived value of hospitality skills, and to develop professional opportunities within the hospitality industry.

Through changes in their business practices, the partners will trial new and alternative ways of improving the earnings and progression of lower paid workers. This will be done by investing in a variety of people-centred business and training approaches with the aim of improving productivity, customer experience and, ultimately, of raising take-home pay for low paid workers.

Building on industry-recognised quality-focused working practices, the project partners will ramp up their own people-development and develop a Toolkit to make it easy and affordable for local small and medium sized businesses to improve business productivity by investing in their staff.

UKCES identified the hospitality and retail sectors as industries with some of the lowest pay rates in the country.  One in three households in Cornwall has someone working in hospitality, so this project could make a real difference to the lives of many people if it succeeds in helping businesses find sustainable ways of improving career and pay progression.

The regional visitor economy depends on strong hospitality businesses but there is still a dependence on informal seasonal roles, something which this project hopes to help address.

The project partners’ approaches to people development have caught the attention of the UK Skills Commissioners. Sean Taggart, UKCES Commissioner and co-owner and Chief Executive of Albatross Travel said:

“Often despite the best efforts of employers in the sector, low pay and high staff turnover are too frequently the hall marks of the retail and hospitality industries. However, these employer-led projects are demonstrating that there is another way that can break this cycle to the benefit of both employers and employees.

“If we can think more creatively about how we design jobs, how we motivate and up-skill staff, and how we use technology to engage with the hardest to reach, we can begin to increase the productivity of our workforces, grow our businesses and pay people more as a result.”

Case Study

James Catherall, aged 23, is already a Floor Supervisor at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall having benefited from on-the-job in-house training supported by Cornwall College since joining Fifteen Cornwall as a trainee waiter in August 2013. James says:

“Two years ago I wouldn’t have believed that I’d now be managing the restaurant service with up to 135 customers and a team of 10 staff. Since I started at Fifteen Cornwall I have achieved a Level 3 Qualification and increased my earning power by over 20%.

I’m also a Springboard Ambassador promoting careers in hospitality and I’m now working towards a Level 4 Management Qualification.  I enjoy the challenge and I’ve learnt so much. I feel I’ve made a real contribution to the business.”

Partners’ Quotes

Matthew Thomson, Chief Executive of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall and the Cornwall Food Foundation, said, “We are thrilled to have been invited to work with UKCES.  The hospitality industry is central to our regional economy and we need thriving, professional hospitality businesses to deliver sustainable and inclusive growth in Cornwall and beyond.

“Companies flourish when the people who make them are well rewarded and can shape their own careers.  Our partnership of progressive hospitality businesses is keen to make a difference across the south-west and we would love to hear from anyone with the same ambition.”

James Staughton, Managing Director of St Austell Brewery said “We are delighted to be part of this project.  Our businesses are crying out for new talent and we must work together to demonstrate that the hospitality sector is great for careers and skills with fantastic opportunities in Cornwall for professional and business development.”

Will Ashworth, Managing Director of Watergate Bay Hotel said “Hospitality is a corner stone of the Cornish economy, and we want to encourage talent into the industry as a career for life.”

Miriam Venner, Cornwall College Director of Cultural and Visitor Economy said “The Cornwall College strategy is all about enabling businesses to lead professional vocational training and we intend to use this project to show the hospitality sector in Cornwall just how far we can go in helping them drive business growth by investing in their people.”

Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall said “Tourism depends on great service and Cornwall depends on tourism. By growing people and businesses this project can make a real difference to the visitor economy. Visit Cornwall is proud to be part of it.”

“Hospitality is a corner stone of the Cornish economy, and we want to encourage talent into the industry as a career for life.”

(Image credit: Bob Berry)


Notes to editors

Opened in May 2006, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall uses the magic of food to empower and inspire young people in Cornwall to become professional chefs. Owned by the Cornwall Food Foundation, Fifteen Cornwall aims to recruit 15-20 young people aged 16-24 each year to become the chefs of the future.

Cornwall Food Foundation inspires people in Cornwall through food to make meaningful change in their lives. An independent, registered charity it is best known for managing the Fifteen Cornwall Apprentice Programme and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall restaurant.

The Foundation also runs a successful schools programme which sees over 1,000 school children visit the restaurant and actively engages with 30 schools through the schools healthy eating programme. The Foundation is currently working on some exciting new projects that involve vocational training opportunities and engaging communities through food-related activities that focus on health, education and employment.

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