A skills shortage in high-end hospitality led 10 renowned hotels outside of London to team up and address the problem head on. Luxury Academy co-founder Paul Russell speaks to managers and trainees to find out more about the Ten out of Ten training initiative
Luxury doesn’t happen by accident. It doesn’t compromise, and it doesn’t make do. Luxury is crafted, curated, perfected and maintained to the most exacting standards. It is a special world and it demands special people to take it into the future.
In the executive offices of most luxury hotels, the skills gap is the subject of continuing debate. The hospitality industry, which tends to be a seasonal stop-gap for young people with other careers in their sights, has been grappling with a shortfall in committed, well-trained staff and managers.
For the luxury economy, creating and nurturing a talent pool is a matter of some urgency and with this in mind, managers at 10 of the UK’s most iconic hotels and restaurants outside of London set up the Ten Out of Ten 25-month management development programme, led by Cliveden House Hotel general manager Sue Williams.
As a result, many of the next generation of the UK’s top hotel managers are learning the ropes the old-fashioned way in some of the country’s finest establishments.
“The idea behind Ten Out of Ten is to give trainees as much exposure to every aspect of the luxury hotel business as possible,” explains Emma Jenkins, director of HR at The Vineyard and a founding member of the development programme.
“Trainees spend five months working at one hotel and in one particular department: housekeeping, concierge, kitchen, front-of-house, sales, marketing, finance, events — the whole works,” she adds.
For Ed Fitzpatrick, one of the first intakes, this meant a privileged two years. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have progressed as quickly if I’d stayed in one position over that two years,” he says.
Fitzpatrick’s placements included five months spent in the kitchen at Gidleigh Park Hotel, Devon and at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Restaurant, two memorable experiences among many.
“You can’t fail to learn from such exceptional people. It was an extraordinary opportunity,” he recalls.
Lydia Sheehan, a first-year trainee on the Ten Out of Ten programme, is also finding the breadth of skills rewarding: “You get to experience each discipline from the bottom up. I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to experience the whole spectrum of roles within a department — in my service training I started as a waitress and moved onto carrying out restaurant manager roles”.
1. Chewton Glen, Hampshire
2. Cliveden House, Berkshire
3. Dormy House Hotel & Spa, Cotswolds
4. Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire
5. Mallory Court Hotel, Warwickshire
6. Pennyhill Park, Surrey
7. The Seafood Restaurant, Cornwall
8. South Lodge Hotel, Sussex
9. The Hinds Head, Bray
10. The Vineyard, Berkshire
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Learning the ropes
This is not a course in which trainees learn passively and the level of commitment expected is high.
“You wouldn’t get this kind of access through other hospitality courses,” Jenkins points out, a view echoed by the course participants. “But you have to be the very best. Luxury hospitality is more than just a job. It’s about attention to detail and making the difference. You can’t have off-days.”
The organisers of the programme have a number of support systems for trainees. Everyone has to be clear about their objectives at each hotel placement; there are frequent training days and regular reviews to help monitor progress.
Each trainee can rely on a buddy system for emotional support from a member of the previous year’s intake, while the mentor programme offers professional guidance from senior managers to help candidates plot their career in luxury hospitality.
“The course is hard work and can be challenging,” says Sheehan. “I had considered taking a degree in hospitality management, but I believe this course will give me invaluable experience in the hotel industry and a great start to my career”.
For Fitzpatrick, his career will soon begin, upon completion of the course, having secured a new management position at the five-star Chewton Glen hotel in Hampshire.
Encouragingly, each year’s intake has been balanced more or less equally between male and female, which bodes well for a future generation of female managers in luxury hospitality.
“There’s no ceiling to hold you back,” says Jenkins. “Candidates are selected entirely on merit from those who demonstrate passion, charisma and a little sparkle”.
Furthermore, Ten Out of Ten is not a graduate programme and accepts applications from those who have either worked in hospitality (including internal candidates) or from those who have received a qualification in hospitality management.
For those considering applying, there’s plenty of advice: “Be 100% certain this is what you want to do,” advises Ed. “And prepare for the interview day so that you know all 10 establishments involved”.
Sheehan, who is now approaching her second year in the programme, adds: “You need to be sure that you can put in the effort and work hard to achieve your objectives and get as much as you can out of the course”.
As the 2013 intake roll up their sleeves and begin their 25-month luxury odyssey, a challenging few years lies ahead and — on the evidence so far — a golden opportunity.