Professional Cookery Apprentice Ellena Maher at the Rose & Crown restaurant

Cooking Up My Future at The Rose & Crown

By Ellena Maher, Professional Cookery Apprentice

For someone who’s as passionate about cooking as me, there is really only one choice of career, isn’t there? So, as a first step towards my goal, I was thrilled to get a Professional Cookery Apprenticeship at The Rose & Crown restaurant in Warwick.

Once a month, my tutor from Stratford-upon-Avon College, Jim, visits the restaurant to see me cook and prepare dishes.

I remember I was so nervous the first couple of times Jim came to visit me, as I felt I was being assessed and might be criticised. I shouldn’t have worried though. He instantly put me at ease and made it clear he is there to help and support my development. We discuss the month before which meals I will be preparing next, to give me time for practice and preparation.

I had already completed a full-time Catering course at Stratford-upon-Avon College, but my apprenticeship has driven me even further towards my goal of becoming a fully-trained chef. I have learnt so much and had great fun at the same time! The bonus of doing an apprenticeship is that I am earning my own money while I’m learning. I’m also guaranteed a job after the course has finished. What more could you ask for?

I get so much support from my Head Chef, Leon Higham, as well as the whole team at The Rose & Crown. Jim makes sure that I understand the tasks that I’m given and teaches me new skills that I can put straight into practice in the kitchen. I even enjoy my assessments – it doesn’t even feel like I’m being assessed, just having a lesson because it’s great fun!

An apprenticeship course is a fantastic opportunity to carry on studying whilst gaining valuable work experience with a regular salary. I would highly recommend choosing one!

Rebbecca Johnson, Laura-Marie Slatem, Scott Bransby

College Apprenticeship Team Go Back To The Floor

Members of Stratford-upon-Avon College’s Work Based Learning Team have been sent “back to the floor” to experience daily life as an apprentice.

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, College Apprenticeship Assessors rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside the trainee professionals they usually teach to gain an insight into the operational practices of local employers and to better understand the viewpoint of an apprentice.

On Tuesday, Apprentice Assessor Rebecca Johnson spent the afternoon working in the bar of QHotel’s Stratford Manor, receiving training in the preparation of food and drinks, in taking payments and in customer service from Food and Beverage Apprentice Scott Bransby and Hospitality Apprentice Laura-Marie Slatem.

Hannah Benjamin, Human Resource Officer at Stratford Manor praised the quality of apprentices they have received for the College. “Our relationship with Stratford-upon-Avon College has not only enriched our business, it has created the foundations of students’ futures through the support of the dedicated Apprenticeship Team. We have shining students in both kitchen and general hospitality roles, where they have gone on to win group-level chef competitions, become apprenticeship ambassadors and represented us at local events for both the College and QHotels. The College are very understanding of the skillset we look for and the personality to match our business style, and we look forward to welcoming new apprentices for our July and September intake.”

Wednesday saw newly-appointed Assessor Alison Dean working in several departments in the College itself, alongside three apprentices employed there full time. After enjoying a spell on the reception desk taking calls and meeting visitors with Business Administration apprentice Leigh-Ann Penman, Alison joined Kirsty Fox in Student Services, before teaming up with Kate Parker in Marketing to help look after the College’s social media channels.

Throughout Thursday morning, Work Based Learning Team Leader Bryan Anderson reported for his shift at Fourteas Café on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. He assisted Hospitality Apprentice Elliott Wallis as part of the front-of-house team serving customers, including regular patron Margret Callaghan. Margret praised the friendly atmosphere of the café. “We really enjoy coming here as it’s run so well with lovely staff. No matter the size of your group or how long you stay, they always make you feel welcome and accommodate you. They have a great team here and it’s the perfect place to learn the excellent customer service skills you would need to work in catering.”

Having spent the day helping Bryan learn the ropes, Elliot praised his trainer’s work ethic. “Bryan is doing wonderfully well – although he does have a little bit more experience than most new starters. I would definitely hire him!”

Finishing his shift, Bryan said “I really enjoyed my time at Fourteas today and it gave me a real insight into the challenges my apprentices face every day at work. I never knew that different blends of tea require different brewing times and how useful an egg timer is to get the perfect cuppa!”

Business Administration Apprentice Martin Dunsby

The Road to a Successful Career: My Apprenticeship Journey

By Martin Dunsby, former Business Administration Apprentice

Getting started. It’s got to be the biggest hurdle to career success: how to get your foot in the door when every job advert states ‘applicants must have experience’.

Having completed an IT course at university in 2008, I found myself in this very situation. It felt like every position I wanted to apply for required me to have already worked in the industry!

Which was when, looking through the local paper, I spotted an advert for Business and Administration apprenticeship positions at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

After a successful interview, which was itself a valuable experience, I started working in the College’s own MIS (Management Information Services) department as an apprentice. I gained invaluable experience working within an office environment, and also acquired many new skills and furthered my expertise from the training provided by the College’s Work Based Learning team.

I had a fantastic time throughout the training programme. But my good luck didn’t end there! Once I had completed the apprenticeship, I was thrilled to discover the opportunity to stay on at the College on a permanent basis, in the same role as a MIS Administrator. I later progressed to another job within the MIS department as a MIS Data Analyst, where I was able to use the knowledge and skills acquired as an apprentice to perform the tasks that were needed for my new role.

After working in this position for two years, I saw a Service Desk position had become available in the IT department of the College; a great opportunity for me to put my university education into practice. Another successful interview followed and I am currently working as an IT Service Desk Technician – a position I love.

Having attended full-time education, I firmly believe taking an apprenticeship provided me with the skills, knowledge and experience to help me to progress to where I am now. I would highly recommend apprenticeships to anyone passionate about making their mark in a new career. So go for it – you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Professional Cookery Apprentice Akela Nevelli (left) with No 9 Church Street Chef/Proprietor Wayne Thomson

International Student Follows His Dreams to Stratford

An aspiring chef has spread his wings and sought to master his culinary skills outside his native Italy. With the whole of Europe and a choice of countries with impressive histories of fine food to hand, he chose Stratford-upon-Avon, after his grandmother, who lives in the Warwickshire town, recommended the superb catering training provided by the local College.

Passionate about becoming a successful chef, Akela Nevelli, aged 21, approached the Work Based Learning team at the College, who helped him secure an advanced apprenticeship in Professional Cookery at the restaurant No 9 Church Street, under the mentoring of Chef/Proprietor Wayne Thomson. Wayne himself started his catering career by training for three years at Stratford-upon-Avon College, before moving to London to work at some of the most prestigious establishments in the capital: The Savoy, Claridge’s, Monte’s of Sloane Street and L’Odeon, working under culinary luminaries such as John Williams, Alain Ducasse, Bruno Loubet and Anthony Demetre.

Akela counts himself extremely fortunate to have Wayne as his mentor – a National Finalist of both the National Chef of the Year competition and The Roux Scholarship, and a recipient of The Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Award of Excellence. In addition to passing on his expertise, Wayne has given Akela the opportunity to learn all areas of the kitchen as well as taking him to see suppliers and markets to choose the best ingredients.

Commenting on Akela’s apprenticeship, Wayne said, “I’m passionate about offering opportunities to young chefs like Akela because it offers him the chance to develop Commis Chefs skills from scratch. Also, having apprentices working in the restaurant showcases to my other staff the amazing opportunities for career development that are available to them.”

Akela himself is convinced he made the right decision in choosing to become an apprentice in Stratford: “I have really benefited from my Apprenticeship as it has allowed me to develop the practical skills to work as a chef and, as the course is so closely linked to my work with Wayne, I feel that my skills and understanding have developed far faster than if I had just taken a full- or part-time course.”

Emma Stringman

Apprentice of the Month – January 2017

Congratulations to Level 2 Health and Social Care apprentice Emma Stringman — January 2017’s Apprentice of the Month.

Emma’s manager at Homeinstead (Stratford-upon-Avon), Dan Phillips, commented:

Emma has worked exceptionally hard in order to overcome her fear of maths and to improve her confidence. She puts in a great amount of additional work outside of her lessons, and this can clearly be seen in the improvement she has made. She is an outstanding student who fully deserves this award and future success.

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?

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

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.