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Offering SEN training and opportunities in the hospitality sector

04 Dec 2023

I’ve worked in hospitality since I was sixteen, so I’m a big believer in the fact that people can forge great careers in the industry. I’ve always considered new ways to share that passion, and being an Enterprise Adviser has given me the perfect chance to show the next generation that working in restaurants and bars is really rewarding.  

Around four years ago, Fairmead School’s Assistant Headteacher Shaun France reached out through some mutual friends to see if I’d be interested in supporting the school with their careers programme. Fairmead caters for young people between the ages of four and nineteen with varied special educational needs, so – as the owner of a tapas and cocktail bar called Kazbar – my role was to accessibly embed the school within the local business community. 

Developing the provision  

For me, being an Enterprise Adviser has been about sharing knowledge. I’ve tried to bring an entrepreneurial spirit when consulting with the school, brainstorming with senior leadership on ways they can profitably cater their own school events. I initially organised our own employer day by bringing my suppliers together, which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. It did, however, set the precedent for my desire to facilitate more accessible pathways into hospitality. 

We’ve since invited a cohort of enthusiastic learners from Fairmead to see our daily responsibilities at Kazbar, with staff running mini skills sessions in the kitchen and behind the bar – serving mocktails, of course! I’d never force any of my team to get involved, but it’s been great to see both staff and students become more confident by spending time together. 

Designing a training course 

To provide industry insight on a larger scale, I’ve designed a course to teach SEN pupils about hospitality. It focuses on key aspects like customer service, technology and food preparation – culminating in a final assessment day at Kazbar where the young people deal with real-life workplace scenarios. Even if those enrolled don’t eventually pursue hospitality, the experiences and skills they learn will be transferable elsewhere. 

Going forwards, I want to offer this course on a yearly basis to more schools in the area. I’d love to see it eventually become a reputable training provision – meaning it would be a recognised credential on job applications. By offering bespoke training to young people with SEN, we can provide valuable opportunities while simultaneously filling job shortages in the industry. 

Creating more opportunities 

Customers love being served by approachable staff, and all the young people I’ve encountered from Fairmead have had an abundance of enthusiasm. I’d ideally offer employment opportunities to those who want to progress further, but the reality of being a smaller employer is that I don’t have many positions available. To combat this, I’m always trying to expand the school’s employer network by introducing them to other businesses in the area. 

It’s sometimes easy to feel like an imposter as an Enterprise Adviser! But I’d encourage anyone to pursue something outside of their comfort zone. For my own development, it’s been refreshing to refocus from commercial results to a more supportive role – and I firmly believe that our wider society would benefit if all businesses engaged with the education sector in this way. Partnering with an SEN school in particular has made me conscious of my industry’s inclusivity, as well as the active part myself and other business owners can play in providing more opportunities for all.

Become an Enterprise Adviser today

Working with a local school or college, your role as an Enterprise Adviser can help support pathways into your industry and shape young people's futures.

You can help bridge the gap between the world of work and education, working with the Careers Leader and wider senior leaders of the school or college to create opportunities for young people.

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“It is such a benefit to the school having an Enterprise Adviser, helping us make the link with local business and developing our understanding of the world of work. However, I feel that what Matt brings as an Enterprise Adviser is a level above! Opening his business up to us as a school to provide opportunities to learn in a real working environment and working with the school to develop curriculum directly linking to their learning. These opportunities as well as supporting events and our overall school careers plan is so beneficial to our students and their futures.”

Shaun France, Assistant Headteacher, Fairmead School