One of Birmingham’s top restaurants, Opus, has designed an apprentice scheme with University College Birmingham (UCB) in a bid to develop aspiring students and close the ever-growing skills gap in the hospitality industry.
The restaurant, which has a 2AA Rosette, introduced its first tailor-made scholarship programme for waiters and aspiring managers this autumn for students. It is one of the first restaurant-based apprentice schemes of its kind to concentrate on ‘front of house’ learning.
The move by the city restaurant followed news from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) that 69% of employers were concerned with the skills gap. The Opus Scholarship scheme is a forty week programme, designed to enhance undergraduates’ academic skills by providing relevant paid work experience across all three venues.
Students will receive expert advice, guidance and training in every part of a restaurant, from the Reception, Kitchen, Floor and Bar all the way through to hosting private dining and organising events.
Katie Bytheway, employability manager at Hired@UCB, said: “Working with Opus on this Front of House Scholarship has been fantastic. It provides our final year Hospitality students with a real opportunity to launch their careers whilst finishing their studies. The application process, even for those that weren’t successful, is invaluable and provides students with the chance to practise interviewing and talk about their employability skills.
“Having the chance to work across all three Opus properties, under the guidance of experienced managers and team members, provides a structured and progressive model for career development. Hired@UCB (UCB’s careers, employability and enterprise service) will aim to use the Opus Scholarship as a role model to roll out further scholarships for our students.”
Alexey Zapuskalov and Sherry, Mingqiao LI, were both chosen from over a dozen applicants following a rigorous interview process. Alongside their studies, the students will be taught by some of the best in the business.
Applicants were asked to post a YouTube video explaining what makes them stand out from others, as well as answering what they think is the most important aspect of hospitality, what they believe to be their strengths and weaknesses, and what they aspire to be.
Alexey, 22, who has lived in the Midlands for seven years, said: “I’ve had experience in working for small, independent and sustainable companies and the family, personal feel that Opus really presents to the public is something I really admire and wanted to be apart of.
“I am willing to constantly develop my skills, not just my technical skills in things like face-to-face service, but also my managerial skills, and I believe the Opus scheme is the perfect opportunity to do this,” he added
The Opus Restaurant Group, have an emphasis on building a loyal, happy team who produce sustainable, quality food from a local source has made them one of the most highly regarded names in hospitality.
Irene Allan, director at Opus, said: “Over the past few years we’ve seen Birmingham’s hospitality sector undergo tremendous growth. However if we want to keep this momentum going, we need to be investing in the right kind of people to develop the right kind of skills to keep the Birmingham hospitality industry thriving. That’s why we are passionate about this programme and are excited to help cultivate young students and their skills.”
The second successful candidate, 24-year-old Sherry, and in her final year at UCB, said: “The specifics of the training programme was the most attractive part of the scheme to me. Opus’ sustainability sets a real example in the industry and I love how they use local farming techniques to protect the environment.”
Pawel Skrzypinkski, general manager of Opus, said: “Hiring and supporting chef apprentices has been a fundamental aspect to developing our team here at Opus. Through the UCB scheme, we taken on several apprentices every year and we’ve seen some exceptional results.
“Apprenticeships are a great way of bringing young people into our restaurant and offering them a chance to develop vital skills for their career. Young people are crucial in hospitality – their enthusiasm, fresh perspectives and knowledge on upcoming trends are invaluable – and we must give them opportunities at entry level. We are very excited to get Alexey and Sherry on board through the scheme, and to help nurture their skills.”