Cumbrian Hotel To Provide Workplace Training For People With Learning Difficulties

Cumbria’s largest provider of advocacy, People First Independent Advocacy, and award-winning hospitality business The Halston in Carlisle, have joined forces to provide essential workplace training for people with learning difficulties. Built on a shared passion for the county, its people and prosperity, the partnership recognises a commitment to promoting equal opportunities and the value of inclusion in the workplace.

With this new partnership comes reciprocal benefits that will enrich the practices of both organisations, providing learning opportunities for the vulnerable people who access People First’s services and enriching training and mentorship opportunities for the staff of The Halston.

The partnership comes after a period of valuable collaboration between the two organisations. This collaboration began with The Halston’s generous donation of a large quantity of furniture and equipment designated to support People First’s ongoing restaurant development. This period culminated in a period of work experience for the students of People First’s Hospitality Academy.

People First’s Hospitality Academy is based at the charity’s conference centre in the heart of Carlisle. The Academy provides young people with learning difficulties the support and resources to complete hospitality qualifications; to prepare them to lead full lives in the world of work.

After initial contact with The Halston, staff at People First met with The Halston Co-Owner and Director Dominique Harrison. During this meeting, it became clear that the two organisations had a lot to gain from working together.

The Halston agreed to offer People First’s learners a unique programme of immersive work experience. Dominique Harrison suggested that pairing learners with Halston staff members would be the most beneficial way of providing a meaningful and bespoke experience.

Over the course of five weeks, People First’s leaners spent five days working with The Halston’s many teams across the hotel, the Penny Blue Restaurant and Bar, and Barton’s Yard Cafe. Learning to work in a busy hospitality setting, serving food, maintaining high customer service, working behind a popular bar: the experience encouraged the learners to find their specialism and develop it.

Among the learners was Tom Graham. Tom has been with People First for a year. In that time he has learned a great deal and impressed a lot of people. Tom spent his time at The Halston working with the hospitality team.

Tom Graham says: ‘I really enjoyed working at The Halston. Everyone there was friendly and so helpful. The team knew that I liked working with customers. They encouraged me to take orders, to lead people to their tables and to talk to as many people as possible.’

Tom continues: ‘I’m grateful to The Halston, their staff really wanted to help us learn and I can’t wait to go back; there’s so much more to learn.’

Phil Cookson, Halston team member who worked alongside some of the learners, says: ‘I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed being involved in the work experience placements. It’s satisfying seeing someone develop confidence as they put into practice the skills they have learnt with the People First Hospitality Academy. It’s also made me realise how important it is to have a flexible approach when training new members of the team as everyone learns in different ways.’

The partnership between The Halston and People First will make opportunities like Tom’s and the young people’s more frequent. Through this link, the organisations will be able to more effectively share resources to maximise the positive impact on People First’s young people, the staff at The Halston and the wider Cumbria community.

People First CEO, David Blacklock says:

‘As an organisation that believes strongly in the power of collaboration, we are proud to announce that People First and The Halston have become business partners. With their heritage, reputation and commitment to championing Cumbria, we could not think of a better organisation to have as our first partner.’

‘I would like to thank The Halston for their generosity, warmth and enthusiasm. We’re looking forward to a mutually beneficial relationship that will provide remarkable and empowering experiences for many people.’

The Halston Co-Owner and Director Dominique Harrison says:

‘At The Halston we believe in creating a culture of constant learning for all our employees and we have seen the value of extending this through short term work placements with People First. Hospitality can be a rewarding career choice and one that offers roles to suit a wide range of interests and skill sets.

‘I’d urge other hospitality business owners in and around the Carlisle area to get in touch with People First to find out how they can get involved, and how it can benefit your organisation.’

For businesses interested in finding out more about the programme contact details for People First are on the website: