The doors will open this month on Skills Northern Ireland Northern Ireland’s biggest careers fair – a one-stop expo and interactive experience for youngsters looking for careers inspiration and information.
Skills Northern Ireland, which will take place at the Titanic Exhibition Centre on 20th and 21st November, is aimed at 14-19 year olds, their parents, their teachers and their influencers, to help enlighten them about jobs and careers choices, apprenticeships, courses, growing industry sectors and training opportunities.
Bringing together more than 70 organisations and over 7,000 pre-booked visitors over the two days, the exhibition will not only bring businesses face-to-face with their future workforce but also provides an exceptional development opportunity for current employees.
The hospitality industry is just one sector being represented at Skills Northern Ireland. Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort, Northern Ireland’s premier luxury hotel and spa, exhibited for the first time at Skills Northern Ireland 2018 and will be returning this year.
Richard McGowan, Project Manager, School of Excellence and Staff Wellness Centre at Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort tells us about their experience of Skills Northern Ireland and why they will be returning in 2019 to inspire even more young people to consider a career in the hospitality industry.
“Skills Northern Ireland is an excellent platform to engage with a vast range of students from across the province. The entire event is based solely on careers available to young people and gives them an excellent opportunity to speak to employers about their chosen careers.
“While some young people will go on to university this is not always the case for everyone. Some will want to go straight into paid employment and a professional apprenticeship allows them to do just that. By meeting pupils, parents and teachers face-to-face at Skills NI, we can talk to them first-hand about the skills gap in the hospitality industry and highlight the various apprenticeship options available to them at Galgorm.
“Our Galgorm Apprenticeship Programme focuses on three areas within the resort – Spa Therapy, Food and Beverage and Professional Cookery and we are delighted to have 16 apprentices employed with us presently. As our company grows so do our people and we have a wide range of opportunities available to those young people wishing to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.”
As part of the exhibition, there will be an “Ambassador Hub”, where visitors can meet apprentices, employees and students from local companies, colleges and universities, to get inspiration about their own future career journey.
Kaitlin Bentz, a Guest Service Manager at Holiday Inn Express in Antrim, is a Skills Northern Ireland ambassador representing the hospitality industry.
Like many school leavers, Kaitlin was faced with the daunting decision of what her next step would be. Having had a taste of the hospitality industry through cookery classes at school and a job as a waitress, Kaitlin knew it was a path she wanted to explore.
In a serendipitous moment Kaitlin, who was living in New Zealand, received a call from her cousin in Northern Ireland, offering her a six month placement at Holiday Inn Express in Antrim. She comments: “I was delighted to receive this opportunity as it ticked two of my favourite boxes, travelling and hospitality!”
Soon after moving to Northern Ireland and working as a Guest Service Assistant, Kaitlin was offered a permanent position at the Holiday Inn Express. Alongside her new role, there was the opportunity to earn while she learned taking on an apprenticeship and studying a Level 3 NVQ in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership, which she gladly accepted. During her studies, Kaitlin made an impression on her team and was soon offered the role of Trainee Duty Manager.
Kaitlin continues: “The management team saw the potential in me. Amazing opportunities were being presented to me and I couldn’t decline.”
In terms of professional development, Holiday Inn Express provided extensive training for Kaitlin, who had little previous experience. From learning to pull the perfect pint, to computer skills approved by the Institute of Hospitality and PCI conduct training, Kaitlin learnt more than she ever expected through her apprenticeship.
Speaking on how her training has provided her the opportunity to demonstrate skills in adaptability and progression, she commented: “It wasn’t easy but I am a quick learner and demonstrated my potential to my new managers.”
Kaitlin can boast both professional and personal achievements, such as winning the ‘Outstanding Apprentice of the Year’ award from the Institute of Hospitality. She reflects on how she turned an interest in hospitality into a career.
“It has really been a dream come true for me. Moving away from home was hard, so knowing that my hard work and effort has paid off is really encouraging and it is such a rewarding feeling knowing you have made a guest’s stay so memorable.
Kaitlin is encouraging other young people embarking on their career journeys to attend Skills Northern Ireland. She says: “Skills Northern Ireland is a great platform to ask questions, chat to lots of employers from different sectors and to determine what pathways are available to you – I would highly recommend attending.”
To find out more about the event visit www.skillsnorthernireland.co.uk.