WELCOME to Blackpool’s Tourism Academy.
The town’s top operators could offer 40 new tourism apprenticeships and train 1,000 residents over two years if they clinch £1m funding later this month.
Major players have joined forces to shape a workforce bespoke for Blackpool’s needs by a tourism academy.
Even in grim economic times Blackpool remains Europe’s most visited tourist resort – the meltdown in the Eurozone leading more to holiday at home.
But it is crucial they get good service and high standards in order to return to the resort – some seaside savoir faire on the tourism frontline is vital.
It is driving the consortium’s bid for a £1m tourism academy – bosses investing £220,000 of their own money if the Government’s new Employee Ownership of Skills pilot fund come up with the rest.
Paul Maynard, Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP, says: “It’s crucial the private sector has a say in the way skills will be developed – it creates jobs and brings in investment.
“By bringing this project to life, we can show Blackpool is eager to embrace the skills agenda, investing in a workforce that will make Blackpool and Britain proud.”
Merlin, which operates The Tower, Madame Tussauds and the Sea Life Centre, has teamed up with the Pleasure Beach, Blackpool Zoo, Sandcastle Water Park, Blackpool Transport and Cuerden Leisure, which operates the Winter Gardens and South and Central Piers. Together they employ 2,500 people in the high season.
Meanwhile, Blackpool and The Fylde College in partnership with bosses across the Fylde coast and Jobcentre Plus offers a blueprint for academies which has exceeded expectations.
In less than a year, 14 sector-based work academies have put 124 people in work and secured jobs for 400 through allied programmes.
It adds up to an 80 per cent success rate for employment – against a national figure of 38 per cent and a government target of 50 per cent.
Local employers involved include JD Wetherspoon, Global Renewable, Argos, Napier Care, Blackpool Football Club, Crown Leisure, Cala Gran, Sandcastle Waterpark, Merlin Entertainments and The Noble Organisation.
The emphasis is on occupational skills. The Noble Organisation, owners of Coral Island, not only trained potential recruits in all aspects of gaming, but funded the personal licences required to work in any casino.
Tony Gibbons, managing director of the Noble Organisation, says he is delighted with the results.
“Blackpool already offers a number of licensed casinos and we need to make sure our staff will be the best. The college will help us fulfil this objective. All the vacancies on the course will be offered to local people and the vast majority of our team will be Blackpool residents, which we believe is critical.”
The last two sector-based work academies, run in partnership with Merlin and Noble, saw every single learner, such as those pictured above, secure work.
Kate Shane, general manager of Merlin-run Blackpool Tower, calls it an “outstanding success.”
She adds: “Links with the college have proved invaluable to the recruitment process at The Tower. The work has significantly reduced the amount of time for our management team to pull together a suitable group for our assessment centres.
“The calibre of candidates has exceeded that of those attracted during the normal recruitment process.”
Typically programmes cover customer service, communication skills, orders, health and safety, dealing with money, stock control and other techniques. Learners also get vital tips on improving job prospects from lecturers with industry experience, supported by an employability coach and job brokers. There’s no cost to employers for sector-based work academies as costs are met by government funding.
Gordon Marsden, Blackpool South MP, and Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth, hails the academies as “motivational and inspirational.”
The learners themselves agree. Daniel Dickens, of Sandcastle Waterpark, says: “There are huge benefits such as qualifications, job preparation, interview practice and a great introduction to those you might work with.”
Mary Hancocks, now working at Blackpool Football Club Hotel, admits: “I felt excited and nervous when Jobcentre Plus called to say I’d been selected for the academy, but I met some lovely people, the course has been fantastic, my confidence and self belief greatly improved and I am proud to say I am a receptionist at BFC hotel.”
Brian McDowell, now with Global, adds: “For me personally I am going to go as high as Global will take me. I’m in my element.”
Daniel Barbera, of the Sandcastle, says: “The course has been a big confidence boost.”
And Beverlin Bassett, now at Napier Care, concludes: “It is intimidating trying to get back into work after such a long time. I really wanted to get a job so I can provide more for my children.”