Holiday Inns in Norwich experience student takeover

City College Norwich students Megan Nickalls (left) and Ripley Gillibrand (right) welcome guest Olaf Reitsma at Holiday Inn Norwich North

City College students Megan Nickalls (l) and Ripley Gillibrand (r) welcome guest Olaf Reitsma at Holiday Inn Norwich North

Three Holiday Inn® hotels and Norwich International Airport were taken over for a week in February by more than 100 students from City College Norwich as part of the Hotel and Airport Takeover event.

The students took on roles ranging from hotel general manager, receptionist and chef; to maître d', health club assistant and airport check-in desk during the week of 9th to 13th February.

Hotel and Airport Takeover is one of the most ambitious student work experience events in the UK. 2015 was the biggest yet with three Holiday Inn hotels, part of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG®), taking part. Established by City College Norwich’s hotel school in 1998, the Hotel Takeover is being run in partnership with the IHG® Academy programme - joining over 600 programmes that give local people a chance to learn the skills they need to find work and the opportunity to get a job in the hospitality industry.

The three Holiday Inn hotels gave students more opportunities to experience roles in hospitality and tourism management. Each hotel had its own student General Manager for the week and other management roles also being undertaken by students. This year’s three student General Managers (GM’s) were all Hospitality Diploma level 3 students at City College Norwich: Jasmine Mason, 16; Esther Holden, 17; and Adam King, 18. The students were appointed to the GM roles after going through an intensive interview process, during which existing managers from the Holiday Inn brand and City College Norwich tested their suitability for the role.

Jasmine Mason, student General Manager for the Holiday Inn Norwich North said: “I was really pleased when I found out that I got one of the student General Manager positions. The interview process was quite nerve wracking. I was a little scared to begin with but I felt more confident once I started talking to the panel. I was really excited about the takeover. I would like to be General Manager of a hotel in the future, so I was particularly looking forward to experiencing the job first hand to see if it is right for me.”

Since the first hotel takeover in 1998, the number of students involved has grown each year, extending to include not only hospitality and catering students, but also those on sports, personal fitness training, and travel and tourism courses. At its heart, the annual takeover remains about working with employers to give students a unique opportunity to experience what it is like to work in hospitality first hand.

During takeover week staff in each of the hotels, up to and including their GMs, take a step back to allow students to take on their jobs. Every area of the hotel will be covered, including reception, housekeeping, health suite, bar management, food preparation, food service and supervisory and management roles. The students are required to maintain the hotels’ usual high standards of service at all times.

On top of this the students also had the challenge of managing additional events during the week:

The three student General Managers joined the Holiday Inn GMs and other hoteliers at the Holiday Inn Norwich City hotel for a meeting of the Norfolk Hoteliers’ Association; City College Norwich and Inspired Youth held a major hospitality careers event at the Holiday Inn Norwich North hotel, where 50 hospitality employers spoke to high school students about opportunities in the sector; and a gala dinner at the Holiday Inn Norwich North hotel saw 300 guests enjoy a dinner prepared by catering students and entertainment provided by travel and tourism students, with fundraising for hospitality charity Springboard and the college’s Student Opportunities Fund.

Away from the hotels, seven travel and tourism students put their skills to the test as they staged a takeover of Norwich International Airport. Starting shifts as early as 4:30am, the students worked on the airport’s check-in desks and in its travel agency.

Bill Heath, General Manager, Holiday Inn Norwich North said, “We are delighted at Holiday Inn continuing to grow this amazing event that has been taking place since 1998 and is now also an IHG Academy programme. It is more important than ever that we support students and, wherever possible, give them real life experiences of working in our industry and any other business for that matter. I would personally like to thank Andrew Bell CEO and the airport team for taking part again in this joint venture and Inspired Youth for their continued support and involvement.

“Operating the Hotel and Airport Takeover is a learning experience for all of us. Its expansion to a week last year gave many of the students a greater opportunity to complete more shifts and gain more knowledge. With three hotels and an airport this year the sky’s the limit.

“As an employer in the biggest industry in our county, this is a ‘must do’ for all businesses and I hope other employers will be inspired to join us at the gala dinner on Thursday 12th February to support this incredible ongoing initiative.”

Angela Brav, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, Europe said, “We’re delighted this IHG Academy programme is getting bigger and better. Hotels play an important role in society and this fantastic programme gives people the chance to gain hands on experience in a hotel; helping them kick start a career in what I believe to be the best industry in the world.”

Andrew Bell, CEO of Norwich International Airport said, “Norwich International Airport is delighted to once again be part of the takeover alongside the Holiday Inn hotels. This is an excellent initiative which gives students an invaluable insight into the aviation industry. The students will be working shifts alongside airport staff on the check-in desks and within the travel agency. During this time our staff will be pleased to share their expertise with the students to better prepare them for their future careers.”

Joe Mulhall, Programme Manager, City College Norwich said, Our annual takeover is a remarkable demonstration of City College Norwich’s outstanding employer relations. The Hotel and Airport Takeover empowers our students, teaches them vital employability skills and provides them with an awareness of the commercial priorities within the hospitality and tourism sector. Students who have made the effort to gain some work experience always stand out to prospective employers and this experience will make our students stand out when applying for sought-after positions in their future careers.”

The International Tourism Partnership’s Youth Career Initiative also offers real world work experience, training and mentoring opportunities for disadvantaged young people around the world, offering them a future which might not otherwise have been possible.

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