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Four ways hospitality accreditation can take your college to the next level

Guest blog from Jennifer Cruickshanks, head of hospitality, tourism and foundation skills, Runshaw College

As anyone working in further education knows, colleges are incredibly busy places. When you’re head-down in the day-to-day of running a department, getting out there and seeing how other colleges and providers are delivering the same qualifications is difficult.

But getting this insight is so important. How do you know if you’re meeting industry expectations and standards, and really doing the best for your students? This is where external accreditation schemes can be really valuable.

Four years ago, our department went through the People 1st accreditation process – which recognises colleges and providers that deliver excellent full-time or classroom-based hospitality training and qualifications – and we were thrilled to achieve the gold standard.

It was definitely worth the investment and we want to share our experience with other colleges that could benefit. Here are four ways accreditation could help you:

1. It helps you attract students

Accreditation shows school leavers that you’re a credible, current and employment-focused college that has been acknowledged for delivering excellent qualifications as well as technical and employment skills.

Because People 1st accreditation is approved by an independent panel of hospitality employers, it’s a true seal of approval from industry and we can boast that on all our marketing materials. Students and parents can see that the focus on excellence is standard and gives them a fantastic start to their career.

We also applied to have Foxholes, our college restaurant, assessed by the AA. This is something you can only do as a People 1st accredited provider and we were delighted to receive an AA College Rosette, which shows that we’re delivering industry-level service.

This has all raised the hospitality department’s profile as offering a career option to school leavers. Hospitality is now seen as an intelligent option – not just a course or subject you take if you are unsure what to do. Students see that food service is a skilled career, as well as chef and management careers.

2. It strengthens links with employers

Since getting accredited, employers take more note of what we have achieved and we’ve found a renewed respect for colleges in the industry. Runshaw has always had excellent links with employers, but this has increased even further since becoming accredited, helping to give our students elite real-life experiences.

Just recently, we were keen to get one of our most promising students work experience at the Ritz, but were having difficulties engaging with the right team.

Our relationship manager at People 1st was able to get in contact with the general manager for us and smooth the process – as a result, our student was given an interview and is now very much looking forward to starting their work experience with a world-class employer!

Having this kind of experience on their CVs will be invaluable for our students when they’re applying for jobs after college and definitely gives them the edge.

3. It sets you apart from the competition – and you could win a national award

If your college is accredited by People 1st and you have an AA College Restaurant Rosette, you become eligible to enter the AA College Restaurant of the Year award. We did just that, and were over the moon to become the first ever winners!

The whole process was brilliant experience for our students and staff. First, they attended a judging day at the Lancaster Hotel in London where they were given tasks to complete, heard a talk from a Michelin-starred chef, and had a behind-the-scenes tour of the business with the general manager.

As one of the three shortlisted colleges, we were also invited to attend the AA Hospitality Awards ceremony in London. Over 1,000 movers and shakers from the hospitality industry were there and it was a brilliant networking opportunity for our staff, topped off when we were announced as the winners and went up on stage to collect our award from celeb host, Hugh Dennis.

We received lots of publicity on the back of the award win, in national hospitality press, local news outlets and on social media. We were even interviewed on BBC radio. You can’t buy that kind of exposure - especially not on an FE budget!

As one of the shortlisted colleges, People 1st also invited our students and lecturers to attend an event at a luxury 5 star hotel where they helped prepare and serve lunch alongside the hotel team – a fantastic first-hand industry experience.

4. It’s great for team morale and it gets you recognised as a source for future talent

Accreditation is fantastic for raising our external profile, but ultimately we wanted to ensure that we were doing the right things for our students, and it’s had a big impact internally.

The accreditation process was rigorous, so when we received our gold accreditation it was considerably rewarding to know that our baseline was so high! It’s raised morale in the teaching team, as recognition for their efforts, commitment and passion, and recruitment has remained buoyant despite the demographic slide.

Students absorb this as well, they feel proud to be part of a college that has been recognised as one of the best, providing them with excellent career opportunities. We know that hospitality businesses are looking for new routes to find the best talent, so for the students, being able to add accreditation and the AA award to their CV helps them stand out from the crowd.

Sounds interesting?

If your college is based in the UK and delivers apprenticeship training or hospitality, retail or aviation qualifications, you could become a People 1st-accredited provider.

Find out more about the benefits of becoming accredited now or enquire below:


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