Head Chef Nick Deverell-Smith and Commis Chef Matthew Young

Award Winning Restaurateur Gives Aspiring Chefs a Career Boost

An award-winning Warwickshire chef and restaurateur is determined to provide greater employment opportunities for young people in rural communities, and has recently rewarded one of his own former apprentices with a much-sought-after full-time post.

Nick Deverell-Smith, Head Chef and proprietor of boutique Cotswold pub The Churchill Arms in the village of Paxford, decided to hire a Professional Cookery Apprentice through Stratford-upon-Avon College in October last year. Wanting to offer greater opportunity to aspiring chefs in rural communities, Nick explained, “I was an apprentice myself. I had the opportunity to train at Simpsons in Kenilworth, in my opinion the best restaurant in the area, under some fantastic chefs such as Glynn Purnell. I think there’s no better way than learning on the job.

“I always wanted to own my own restaurant. When I left school I wasn’t very confident at all but here I am now. To be able to give that opportunity to other young people is hugely rewarding.”

Nick, who won Junior Chef of the Year in 2000 and has worked under both Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, turned to the College’s Work-Based Learning Team to arrange and advertise the apprenticeship. “When I opened The Churchill Arms, I got in touch with Stratford-upon-Avon College to perform some catering demonstrations for the students, and I was very impressed with the standard of chefs they were producing. So they were the obvious choice when it came to choosing an apprenticeship training provider.”

The apprenticeship was eagerly snapped up by 17-year-old Matthew Young. Under the expert guidance of Nick and his team, Matthew’s skill and confidence grow by the day and he has developed into a first-class commis chef. Reflecting on his training, Matthew said, “I definitely feel I learnt faster than I would have on a full-time course. I also got to practice my skills a lot more often. I was able to send my work to a customer and get their feedback instantly which was very helpful.”

The experience of developing an apprentice with the College has proved highly beneficial to Nick. “An apprentice needs time and patience but Matthew runs a whole section for me now. I can actually take a day off work now which wasn’t possible before!”

“I’m looking to recruit at least one other apprentice which will reinforce my team even further. Now Matthew will be the gold standard for any new apprentices I have. He’s evidence of how much you can achieve if you really put the hours in.”

Apprenticeship Team Leader Bryan Anderson is very impressed by Matthew’s achievements. “For any young chef confidence is key. I’ve seen Matthew grow and adapt and now you can see he feels much more self-assured. Matthew’s in charge of all cold starters and desserts and already has ambitions to progress further under Nick’s expert guidance.”

The Churchill Arms brings a contemporary feel to a 17th Century pub, with a ‘Best of British’ theme, and makes extensive use of local produce, sourced daily from the surrounding countryside. For more information, please visit the website www.churchillarms.co

Lauren Preece, Apprentice of the Month

Apprentice of the Month – December 2016

Congratulations to Level 2 Business Administration Apprentice Lauren Preece — December 2016’s Apprentice of the Month.

Lauren’s manager at Venture House (Stratford-upon-Avon), Nancy Singleton, commented:

Lauren joined the Venture House Team on 12th September and has got off to a flying start. Her enthusiasm and can do approach towards her work shines through. We look forward to working with her to help her develop further in the role. Lauren is very much a worthy recipient of the accolade of Apprentice of the Month.

Stratford-upon-Avon College Business Development Manager Miv Wright commented:

I am very pleased that Lauren has been awarded Apprentice of the month. Lauren has made a fantastic contribution at Venture House. During each assessment visit Lauren has demonstrated excellent team player skills and has received praise from her Manager, Nancy. Lauren completes all assessment tasks set to a high quality and ensures that she provides additional work each month. Lauren has also supported the college at an Open Event, where she discussed her experience with potential students and also supported the WBL learning team. Again Lauren went above and beyond during the Open Event and was extremely helpful to all members of staff.


Are you aged 16+? Do you wish to combine working and earning while learning a professional skill? Would you like to gain nationally recognised qualifications?

Apprentice of the Month – November 2016

Congratulations to Level 2 Food Production and Cooking Apprentice Debbie Reading — November 2016’s Apprentice of the Month.

Debbie’s manager at Holroyd Howe Caterers, Maureeen Kennedy, commented:

“Debbie is a hard working enthusiastic and reliable. She has gained knowledge and confidence over the last year and is an asset to our team.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College Work Based Learning Team Leader Bryan Anderson commented:

“I am very pleased Debbie has been awarded Apprentice of the month, Debbie made fantastic progress on her apprenticeship and impressed her assessor with her commitment to her studies, Debbie left full time education a number of years ago and despite being disillusioned with school fully committed to gaining her functional skills.”


Are you aged 16+? Do you wish to combine working and earning while learning a professional skill? Would you like to gain nationally recognised qualifications?

Apprentices Armands Vinklers and Daniel Herbert

College Apprentices Nominated for Top Award

Two Stratford-upon-Avon College apprentices have been nominated for a prestigious regional award in recognition of the valuable contribution they make to their employers and the local economy.

Armands Vinklers, 24 and originally from Latvia, and Daniel Herbert, 19 from Inkberrow, have been short-listed for the Coventry and Warwickshire Apprentice of the Year Awards. In total, 41 apprentices have been nominated; they come from throughout the region and are employed in a range of roles from hospitality and catering to automotive engineering.

Stratford-upon-Avon College creates the training framework for both nominees’ work-based learning programmes, ensuring that they are confident in their professional roles and secure in their understanding of the assignments they must complete. The apprentices spend four days a week in the workplace performing tasks just like any other employee.

Professional Cookery Apprentice Armands Vinklers

Armands moved to the UK from Latvia and works as a Professional Cookery Apprentice at The Fish and Anchor Inn in Evesham. His apprenticeship has not only provided a career for Armands, but also a solid base for him to build a home life in the UK. He arrived in England with the ambition of securing a career in the catering industry. In addition to developing his core skills in the kitchen, he has completed classes in both English and Maths. Armands is now firmly established at The Fish and Anchor Inn and his partner and young son have now joined him in their new home in the UK.

Armands had little previous experience of working within the catering industry but impressed his employer with his exceptional professionalism and attitude to work. Due to his outstanding commitment to his employer, he has recently been promoted to Sous Chef, assisting the Head Chef in producing outstanding culinary delights.

Stevie Edmund-Jones, Head of Employer Engagement at the College is immensely proud of Armands’ achievements and is continually impressed by his professional conduct.. “He deserves this nomination because he took a massive step in his life, not only to gain employment but because he left his homeland to achieve this. He has proved to be an excellent role model for other young employees at the restaurant.

“He has progressed and evolved in his role by showing great focus and determination, putting his ideas and skills forward in order to help the overall business to gain a good reputation and success as a food establishment.”

Armands himself said; “I’m so happy I decided to come to England and learn to be a chef. I am very proud to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year and I’m grateful to the College and everyone at The Fish and Anchor Inn.”

Building and Construction Apprentice Daniel Herbert

Dan works as a Building and Construction Apprentice for ArchiWildish Ltd architectural designers in Bidford-on-Avon. He primarily focuses on office administration but he is also learning about architectural software as well as the construction industry as a whole, and he has aspirations to train to be an architect himself. His confidence in engaging people has developed immensely throughout the apprenticeship and every day his autonomy expands.

Dan commented: “I love working here. I’m trying to broaden my knowledge as much as possible and learn as much as I can about all the different aspects involved in being an architect. Being nominated for this award is the icing on the cake, and whatever happens on Thursday I feel immensely proud and grateful.”

Mark Wildish is the Chartered Architectural Technologist at ArchiWildish is consistently impressed by Dan’s work ethic. “I think Dan is worthy of being Apprentice of the Year as he applies himself 100% to the task at hand. He even attends additional planning committee meetings purely for his own interest and learning. He’s always attentive, constructively takes on board criticism, and represents the company with his smart and polite personality.”

Both Dan and Armands will be attending the ceremony, nervously awaiting the result of the contest. We wish them good luck!

Supporters of the Save our Apprenticeships campaign meeting at the Houses of Parliament

College Gets Behind National Save Our Apprenticeships Campaign

Stratford-upon-Avon College has been fighting to nullify the impact of national proposed changes to apprenticeship funding at a national event held at the Houses of Parliament.

Stevie Edmund-Jones, Head of Employer Engagement at the College, attended FE Week’s launch of the Save our Apprenticeships Campaign on Wednesday 14 September. The event was held in response to the latest update on apprenticeship funding due to be implemented from April 2017.

Hosted by Shadow Minister for FE and HE Gordon Marsden and chaired by FE Week, the event panel was manned by Member of Parliament for Tottenham David Lammy MP, current Shadow Minister (Defence) Kate Hollern MP, and Minister of State for Education Robert Halfon. Mr Lammy has recently sent a letter with over 50 MP signatures to the government to protest these funding rate cuts.

Apprenticeship providers across the county are concerned the proposed changes to the funding system, whilst bringing welcome simplification, could result in severe consequences for the government’s overarching plan to reach a target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. As funding levels will be dependent on the particular training programme, it is feared certain apprenticeship programmes, such as the College’s highly popular Professional Cookery and Food and Beverage, will lose over 50% of their funding.

Moreover, opportunities for younger, less experienced apprenticeship applicants will potentially be hit hardest; the present system (whereby more money is given to an apprenticeship provider for a 16 – 18-year-old apprentice, since they require more time and training to prepare them for full-time employment) is to be replaced in April 2017 with flat rate funding, set initially at the current lower 19 – 24 rate, which many believe will prove challenging to ensuring high quality training provision.

Mr Lammy believes the impact to areas of his local community will be huge and, as a consequence, colleges and training providers will not be able to deliver basic qualifications. The new funding structure will additionally remove a subsidy for apprenticeship training in deprived areas.

Ms Edmund–Jones was personally invited to the event to raise these concerns with the government and ensure that young people have the opportunity to train under the apprenticeship programmes that best suit their learning needs.

She said “Stratford-upon-Avon College are passionate about good quality training which meets the needs of our local community, giving young people the best possible start in the world of work. However, to maintain this passion under the proposed funding streams, we must look closely at the impact this will have and lobby the government to reconsider these proposed changes to funding. By attending the FE Week ‘Save our Apprenticeships’ campaign, we are helping to get Stratford College’s voice heard.”

The pressure to confront the changes and prepare to minimise their impact is now on. Everyone in attendance was in agreement that this serious nationwide challenge must be planned for accordingly and all providers must seriously look at how they provide the delivery of their apprenticeships.

Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi at The Stratford Hotel

Apprentices Celebrated At Lavish Afternoon Tea

Apprentices from Stratford-upon-Avon College served up an exclusive afternoon tea for a selection of VIP guests – including Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi – at QHotels’ The Stratford Hotel on Friday 18 March. The hour-long event, held at the four-star venue in Stratford-upon-Avon, highlighted the achievements and exceptional standard of work produced by apprentices training in the hospitality and catering industry.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the event was designed, prepared and served entirely by the College’s highly-trained Professional Cookery and Food & Beverage apprentices, every one of whom is currently employed at hotels, pubs and cafes throughout Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was recently appointed the Prime Minister’s Apprenticeship Advisor, and College Principal and CEO Nicola Mannock, chatted to the apprentices about their experiences as budding caterers and the opportunities that have opened up for them as a result of their intensive training.

Mr Zahawi could not be more supportive of the apprentices. “I was most impressed with the quality of the fare and the standard of service provided by these young apprentices today. They are a credit to themselves, their employers and Stratford-upon-Avon College. The success of this afternoon’s event validates my commitment to promoting apprenticeships – my firm belief that their combination of high-quality training and practical industry experience is the most effective means of preparing young people for a successful career.”

George Wilson, aged 20 from Stratford-upon-Avon, is employed as a Level 2 Professional Cookery Apprentice at The Stratford. George knows his training has set him up for a successful career in catering. “I’ve wanted to be a chef for a long time. Becoming a Cookery Apprentice was the best decision I’ve ever made – I’m getting so much help from both The Stratford and the College and I’ve learnt such a lot from the staff here and from my lecturers, not just about becoming a chef but how the whole catering industry works.”

Bryan Anderson, Apprenticeship Team Leader at the College said. “I’m incredibly proud of the exceptional effort all our apprentices have put in today. They’ve really made this a fantastic event. The professionalism and standard of delivery I’ve seen today is testament to their commitment to the catering industry as well as the rigour of the training provided to them by the College.”

Apprentice Faye Golding

A Day in the Life of an Apprentice

By Faye Golding, Level 2 Business Administration Apprentice at Stratford-upon-Avon College

What does your typical day look like?

I kick start a Monday morning by searching on-line for any press articles we’ve been featured in. Well, after a coffee, of course! I work in the College marketing team so it’s important to track any mention of us in the media and display them in our Press Folder; you never know when we’ll have an important visitor to impress! I look after the admin in the office and make sure the team is filling out the correct paper work – no easy task, I can tell you! As well as answering phone calls and enquiry emails, I update our social media pages, keeping our followers up to date with everything that’s going on here. I might have to design promotional posters or leaflets and compose e-News letters. I also attend careers events regularly where I meet prospective students and parents. My job is so varied and every day there’s something new to do – which certainly keeps everything interesting.

What do you like best about your job?

I love being creative so I always jump at the chance to design flyers and posters for the College. It’s always great to hold the finished product in my hands and know that I was responsible for creating the whole design. It’s really rewarding to see them used to help promote the College. I also enjoy going to events at schools and careers fairs. Each one is different and it’s great to meet new people and chat to them about College life and the courses we offer, and about how we can help with their education.

Why did you decide to start an apprenticeship?

I was really keen to start working and earning money, and an apprenticeship was a great way to get into an exciting job that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I knew I’d gain so many new skills that I‘d never be able to learn in a classroom. I wanted to have more professional confidence too. I work five days a week doing a job that I love, gaining valuable work experience, earning money, and training towards a qualification – it’s an amazing opportunity.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start an apprenticeship?

Make sure you find the apprenticeship that’s right for you. Something that suits your own particular skills but that will also challenge you, and ensure you learn a lot. Make sure you prepare a good personal statement that tells the employer what experience you’ve had and what your goals are, as well as the kind of person you are. Also, you’ll be interviewed the same way you would for any job, so do lots of preparation beforehand – do research into the company and think what questions you could ask that will make you stand out from everyone else.

Would you recommend an apprenticeship to other people?

Without a doubt, I’d definitely recommend apprenticeships. I’ve learnt such a lot in just one year and gained skills that will help me throughout my whole life. My confidence has improved a lot too – I’ve gained much more belief in myself – I know I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it, which is great for both my career as well as my personal life.

Apprentice Callum Graham

Ex-Apprentice Reigns Behind The Scenes

A former apprentice at Stratford-upon-Avon College has risen from trainee to manager in three short years.

Callum Graham, 23, from Kineton in Warwickshire began a year’s training under the College’s apprenticeship programme in September 2011, working as a Technical Theatre Apprentice in Lighting, Stage and Sound with their Technical team. At the end of his training programme, he was immediately offered a permanent position and quickly progressed from Trainee Technician, through Technician, to Technician Instructor. His rise to the top did not stop there, however; since September of last year he has been working at Stratford ArtsHouse as Technical Manager.

After finishing his A levels, Callum decided, like many other students, against going on to University and opted instead for learning in a full-time working environment. A preference for hands-on, work-based training over academic studies was not the only reason for his decision. Unlike university graduates who often find difficulty in obtaining that all-important first job, many apprentices – as in Callum’s case – are offered permanent employment by the company with which they have trained.

“I saw an apprenticeship as an opportunity not only to gain a qualification but as a way to improve my employability and secure a greater chance at a guaranteed job. Everyone I know who has completed an apprenticeship is still employed in their chosen field.”

Callum sees two other major advantages in taking up an apprenticeship. Training is tailored to the needs of each individual apprentice, with a choice of units to complete, and written work – far from being theoretical as is the case when learning in an academic environment – directly complements specific areas of the role the apprentice is actually carrying out.

Moreover, in common with all apprentices, Callum not only avoided the spiralling cost of university tuition, but immediately began earning a guaranteed wage. He is quite clear about the financial benefit: “It’s also a chance to start earning money. I often joke with my friends who have now left university about how I haven’t built up huge amounts of debt!”

Callum cites variety as one of the most enjoyable aspects of his apprenticeship. During his training, his duties included supporting technical theatre requirements for lectures as well as all the students’ performances and productions. ”You could go to work and there was always something different to do. It never became in any way repetitive. I had set responsibilities but every day was different.” Of all his varied achievements, he is most proud of his contribution to the Performing Arts students’ production of Musicals Rock 2; in his role as Production Manager, he played a large part in making this large-scale spectacle a great success.

However, ambitious, hard-working Callum is not content with just one Technical Manager position!

In addition to his role at the ArtsHouse, he has also worked as Technical Manager for a company called Green Side, a venue provider for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – last year he had responsibility for the design and construction of five venues for an incredible 142 different companies performing at The Fringe.

Taking part in an apprenticeship programme has set Callum on the road to a bright and successful career. For the immediate future, he not only plans to return to Edinburgh for this year’s Fringe Festival, but is working hard to ensure that Stratford ArtsHouse is a financially and artistically independent venue. And looking further ahead, the possibilities for Callum are limitless.

“There are so many options open to me in the long term. They might include touring with a theatre company or progressing to another theatre. I’ve got so many opportunities thanks to the apprenticeship.”

Apprentice Conor Barron

Catering Apprentice Set For Bright Future

A new apprentice at Aubrey Allen Caterers is off to a flying start in his new career, learning all about this growing industry. Level 2 Professional Cookery Apprentice Conor Barron began his new job just three weeks ago but is already getting stuck in and taking on increasing responsibility within the company.

Conor, aged 20 from Kenilworth, decided on the apprenticeship training route after finding that university didn’t suit him. Having started studying Engineering at Cardiff University in 2015, he soon realised that he was enjoying neither the course nor the learning environment. He had, however, enjoyed cooking from an early age, so went to an open event at Stratford-upon-Avon College where they explained the opportunities available to apprentices.

“The job here at Aubrey Allen definitely looked the best. It was the first apprenticeship I applied for and I got it. I really enjoy it here and the people are all so nice. I do a lot of prep for the other chefs. Chopping potatoes, getting veg ready. It’s great to feel like part of the team even at this early stage. Although waking up 6am is still hard to do!”

Conor is already a valued member of Aubrey Allen, working alongside the other chefs. Russell Blackwell, Head Chef at Aubrey Allen is keen to stress that Conor is certainly not being treated any differently to another member of staff. “Kitchens are usually a fairly tight-knit affair. There’s a good camaraderie that goes on because you’re all working towards the same goal.”

This style of on-the-job training is much better suited to Conor. “I’ve always learnt better by doing things rather than sat in a lecture hall with someone talking at me. It’s a lot more personal too. Whereas at uni you don’t really get to know any of your lecturers, here everyone works as a close team. I love learning new things and learning news ways to get tasks done.”

Aubrey Allen is an events company so deals with catering on a large scale. According to Russell, the industry is growing and becoming much more diverse, with contract catering and hospitality catering coming to the fore – recently, in the same week, they catered for both a prestigious event at a Jaguar showroom and a private lunch for a board of directors in Birmingham, and there are opportunities to cater for major events such as Wimbledon and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Aubrey Allen is not just responsible for the cooking; they take care of the menu planning and delivery planning too.

“It’s a massive logistical undertaking. Conor will get to learn that part of the business which is a real advantage. This experience as well as the other end of the scale – preparing sandwich buffets for parties for example – means that he is getting to experience the full spectrum of the industry.”

Conor has no hesitation in recommending apprenticeships. “If someone is wondering whether or not they should go to university, I would say definitely take the apprenticeship route. I know quite a few people now who are saying they wish they had taken an apprenticeship instead of going to university.”

And Russell certainly feels that Conor has made the right choice and has a bright future ahead of him. “Assuming everything continues to go well, we’d welcome Conor to join us full time when the apprenticeship finishes.”

Apprentice Chloe Gardner

Apprentice Cooks Up a Storm in Catering Competition

Professional Cookery Apprentice Chloe Gardner has turned up the heat and secured her place in an up-coming catering competition. The contest is being held to create a summer dish for the menus of the QHotels group. Open to all chefs working for the group, it is designed to encourage their catering team to develop their skill sets and to provide them with the opportunity to help shape the menus available to customers.

Chloe joined her Level 3 apprenticeship with Stratford-upon-Avon College in November 2015 and is employed as a Commis Chef at Stratford Manor. As part of her intense application to the competition, she was questioned over her choice of dish and proposed method of preparation. Her mouth-watering entry incorporates grilled Mackerel Fillet, with smoked paprika courgette and parmentier potato, accompanied by a white bean and rocket salad and chilli and lime salsa.

On Thursday 25 February, Chloe took part in the first heat at Norton Park in Winchester, a timed cook off in which she competed against Chefs de Partie and Sous Chefs, from which she emerged victorious. We hope the win didn’t grate on the nerves of the other chefs.

Bubbling over with excitement, Chloe said, “Becoming a cookery apprentice was the best thing I ever did. I love working as a chef and dreaming up interesting menus. I can’t wait for the final to show off my dish and I hope I do Stratford Manor and the College proud.”

Bryan Anderson, Catering and Hospitality Team Leader at Stratford-upon-Avon College, said, “I’m delighted for Chloe. She is an extremely talented and inventive young chef, eager to learn and is constantly improving her skills.  She thoroughly deserves her place in the finals and we all wish her the very best of luck. Whatever the outcome, I know she will go on to make a name for herself as a successful chef.”

After the high-pressure first round, hopefully Chloe isn’t burnt out. She now has until Tuesday 29 March to put the finishing touches to her culinary creation and perfect the preparation before the finals held at Crewe Hall, in Cheshire.

The winning dish will feature on all menus throughout the QHotels group this summer and will return during future summers too. Look out for it from Monday 11 April.

Good luck Chloe!