Vocational training – what does it mean for young people today?

Pizza Hut brings its series on apprenticeships to a close by hearing from their students

To bring our series on vocational training to a close, today we hear firsthand from some of the students who are starting Pizza Hut Restaurants’ degree level apprenticeship scheme this September.

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The four-year programme, a first for the hospitality industry, is delivered in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and offers the opportunity to study for a BA (Hons) Business Management degree whilst receiving on the job training with Pizza Hut Restaurants. Successful candidates also receive leadership qualifications accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Kathryn Austin, chief people and marketing officer at Pizza Hut Restaurants, explains: “The great thing about the scheme is that it gives people the opportunity to mix academic and practical modules, providing not just a fantastic skills base in the hospitality industry but also skills for life.

“Our people are at the heart of everything we do and only through them can we offer our customers the best experience.  By investing in our employees we are able to build a more motivated and skilled workforce for the future.”

Each candidate has a different story to tell, providing insight into what drives young people to consider vocational training and helping other businesses to understand the value of offering similar programmes.

The opportunity to get a degree, whilst being paid

One of the most attractive things about vocational training is that it opens up doors for many young people whilst also providing them with a regular wage. Research by NUS Services1 shows that 45 per cent of university students work part-time job to subsidise university costs, with more than half also believing it will boost their employment prospects. Following the rise in tuition fees, more people are seeking alternative training options. Apprenticeships, then, offer a unique package with young people able to learn sector specific skills at the same time as earning a wage.

Aaron Oreschnick, who currently works as a deputy manager at The Trafford Centre Pizza Hut Restaurant in Manchester, is a case in point. After finishing school, Aaron went to study music at the University of Leeds but had to drop out due to a nasty bout of glandular fever in his second year. He later moved to Edinburgh to study art but disaster struck once more and a car accident meant he had to leave his studies before completion.

Aaron explains how the Pizza Hut Restaurants’ degree programme provided him with his third time lucky: “This actually gives me the opportunity to study while working for a degree that will benefit my job and my future.”

Similarly, Anchit Mahajan, who currently works as a shift manager at the Park Royal Hut, says: “I always wanted to have a degree in hospitality management and leadership but I couldn’t afford it. When I saw this amazing opportunity where I can work full time and have two degrees in four years, it was like my dream come true.”

Both Aaron and Anchit are great examples of how businesses can offer vocational training to provide opportunities for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get a degree. There are clear benefits for businesses too though – a robust programme provides the opportunity to attract new talent into the industry and create the leaders of the future.

Teaching the skills that can’t be taught at university

Another clear advantage of vocational training is that learning can be undertaken on the job as well as in the classroom. This means that as well as getting broader academic knowledge, students also get the practical skills that are more likely to be required in reality.

Anchit explains one of the challenges of working in a customer service industry: “The most amazing thing about this company is that they give opportunities to newcomers and always develop people within the company. It can be challenging working in a fast-paced environment as we always want to make sure we’re providing the best experience.”

Vocational training can be really useful in industries like hospitality as students learn how to deal with difficult situations firsthand on the job. It provides businesses the opportunity to employ people who don’t necessarily have the right academic qualifications but do have the right attitude, drive and personality to succeed.

A clear career path at the end

One of the hardest things for today’s graduates is that after three or four years of studying and up to £30,000 of debt, they can still struggle to get a job at the end. With vocational training, this is rarely the case and students are much clearer about the final outcome.

Emily Bell, for example, works as a trainee shift manager at the Hut in Telford. She previously attended Plymouth University where she gained a Diploma of Higher Education in Marine Biology and Oceanography. She said: “I’m looking forward to the opportunities the degree level apprenticeship programme will open up. I recently started my management journey, so as soon as I saw the opportunity I knew it was the perfect pathway for further development. I love learning so this is as a great way to get the best of both worlds.”

And it’s not just any old job at the end. It is a job that many of the students are already passionate about. James Mann, who is currently waiting to find out his A-level results, explains: “After hearing about the degree programme I liked the fact that I could take an apprenticeship with a company I was already familiar with, having worked with Pizza Hut part time alongside Sixth Form. I felt it was an opportunity too good to pass up. My personal aim is to achieve the degree in business management and a managerial position.”

This of course has advantages for businesses too. It provides certainty that they’re investing in people who really want to be there and have bought into the business from the very start. Aaron Oreschnick continues: It’s a really exciting time to work for Pizza Hut Restaurants at the moment because of the large investment into our restaurants, the remodel programme, our new menus, and because of the huge investment that we have made into employee training. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”


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Debbie Carter

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