What is higher education's role in growing the visitor economy?
From maximising opportunities for employers to developing transferable skills, knowledge and behaviours across sectors, Lincolnshire's colleges, universities, and businesses are working hard to ensure the next generation is ready to continue to visitor economy's evolution.
We might seem to bang on about the importance of partnerships but they really are the key to a successful and positive future for the visitor economy. So much so that even high education hubs are teaming up with visitor economy businesses to give students an immersive experience, and build up relationships within the community.
A hidden gem of Lincoln's hospitality scene, Sessions Restaurant has been garnering some incredible attention of late - and not just for the phenomenal food the restaurant team is dishing out.
A part of Lincoln College, the team at Sessions House is working to maximise opportunities to encourage and develop the transferable skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for learners to progress to further study and ultimately to employment within the customer-facing environments of the Catering, Hospitality & Tourism industries.
Students develop not only high-level service skills and knowledge but also their communication, organisational and problem-solving skills alongside those positive personal traits and wider social skills.
With four main aims, Sessions House is striving to give students:
- A clear line of sight to work
- The opportunity to develop expert learner characteristics
- Knowledge and skills for future learning and employment
- Personal and social skills to be respectful, responsible, and caring citizens
"We want to strengthen existing relationships and develop new partnerships with all sectors of the industry throughout the local area and beyond, we want to work with you to enable our students to develop those behaviours and acquire those soft skills that make them the employees of tomorrow," said Elayne Shannon, Learning & Skills Lead: Travel, Tourism & Hospitality, Sports and Service Sector, School of Advanced, Career and Higher Education, Lincoln College Group.
"We can achieve this by working together, identifying and offering opportunities within our environments. Through Sessions House, we are looking to develop opportunities to form new relationships, put the heart back into our community and bring learning to life for the mutual benefit of all involved - curriculum, commercial, and community."
Side-stepping from hospitality to a business that combines catering with an entirely different educational experience. An institution in Lincolnshire, Rand Farm Park is a family visitor attraction and Destination Lincolnshire partner, that has dramatically evolved over its 26-year journey. Welcoming 13,000-day visitors through the doors in its first year, today the attraction now sees around 100,000-day visitors arrive.
Co-owned by Richard Waring, who runs the business with his wife Kay and their son Joshua, Rand Farm Park as an attraction has evolved enormously, jumping from four staff at the beginning to now having around 80 employees, including the nursery, which was expanded last year following its opening the year prior.
Building a dedicated team is no easy feat, which is where Rand Farm Parks' partnership with fellow Destination Lincolnshire partner, Lincoln College comes in. The duo works together to deliver the Animal Care Course. Run by the college, the course largely takes place at Rand Farm Park, where the 30-40 annual intake of students spend three days a week on-site to gain practical, hands-on, experience alongside the theoretical studies they complete at the college itself.
Working with Foundation students through to Level 3, the Animal Care students work with Rand Farm Park on their course requirements and professional development - readying them for the world of employment that awaits.
And while some students head off to pastures new, many choosing a course in the equine sector, some students stay. Head of Activities at Rand Farm Park, Nathan, came through the program himself. Originally based in Newark, he travelled to Lincoln for his studies, and then out to Rand for his practical experience. When his studies came to an end he approached the Rand team about volunteering and job opportunities to follow, and the rest is history. There are so many stories like this in the team at Rand Farm Park, some of which haven't even come through the college but rather the local community.
The catering facilities at Rand Farm Park are largely run by younger members of the team. Recruited mainly from the villages surrounding Rand - such as Wragby, Market Rasen, and Scothern - those working within catering on-site are more often than not first job employees. Rand works closely with its nearby communities to ensure those looking for their first roles in the working world are given plenty of opportunities. Carrie for example started working at Rand Farm Park 16 years ago. Her first job, Carrie worked her way up and she is now Head of Operations at the popular family attraction.
Joshua Waring, Co-director at Rand Farm Park, said: "For over ten years we have been working with Lincoln College to help prepare their Animal Care students with real-world experience. The college approached dad all those years ago, but from the get-go, we have been fully invested in the partnership. We constructed a purpose-built classroom for the students to utilise during their studies, alongside the time they spend on the farm gaining that all-important real-life experience.
"Students go out on the farm and are responsible for meaningful jobs such as preparing the enclosures, making sure the farm is ready for the day ahead, and helping prepare food for the animals. They also undertake assessments here, so they understand real-life applications in choosing a subspecies to specialise in.
"We as a farm park don't have huge visitor numbers given our location, as a result, we are very education focused. We work with a lot of schools and residential schools so working with the college was a natural progression for us. With the day nursery on-site now too, we are involved with education from 6 weeks old to college age. We are also proud to champion work experience opportunities. We offer places to schools and colleges, working at every level to prepare students for real life."
And it isn't just in higher education where more is being done to actively train and retain younger members of staff in the visitor economy. Campaigns from Destination Lincolnshire partners, such as Healing Manor Hotel and its Hidden Side of Hospitality initiative for example are shining a light on the hospitality industry as a sector where career development, fast tracking, and skill development are rife.
Already a huge supporter of championing the next generation of those entering hospitality through its work with the Grimsby Institute, Healing Manor Hotel is shining the spotlight on team members, representing all roles, backgrounds, and reasons to be working within the industry. Through the Hidden Side of Hospitality campaign, the hotel team is showcasing the diversity, skill, dedication, and myriad of expertise that lies within hospitality, to attract more people into an industry that isn’t always painted in the best light.
A nod to Hospitality Rising and Hospitality Workforce, each profile featured within the campaign showcases a different side of hospitality. From the job role featured to the story behind the team member in question - those using hospitality as a stepping stone, those that are dedicated to their role and see it as a long-term career, and one with huge progression potential, both regarding skill set development and monetary benefits. Through this campaign Healing Manor Hotel is letting its incredible team do the talking and it's been great to see the variety of experiences coming through. There is Callum who has utilised the skills he’s learnt with us to successfully secure an extremely competitive internship at BAE systems. Sophie, whose confidence has skyrocketed since joining the team. And, hotel manager Rebecca, who joined the team after seven years at home raising her children.
The campaign is working to put those honest conversations, about what working at different levels within hospitality is like, out on the table, as Charlotte Bennett, Managing Director at Healing Manor Hotel, explained: “We haven’t created this campaign to sugar coat the industry – there has been far too much of that in the past which in all honesty has contributed to the issue we’re facing today. It can be a hard industry. You are expected to work, graft, be intuitive and learn in a fast-paced environment. But it is equally one of the most rewarding industries you can choose to work within and be part of.
“Coming out of the pandemic, we felt quite optimistic about recruitment and skills within hospitality. However, enticing individuals to come and join us in the world of hospitality is becoming tougher than ever. We are working hard to change working hours and pay, where feasible, but what we wanted to do with this campaign, is shine a spotlight on the incredible team members we do have and share their stories as to why hospitality is playing a vital role in their future."