Hospitality and Tourism Academy

East Lothian Council’s  Education and Children’s Services Department, Jewel And Esk College, and Queen Margaret University have been jointly exploring the possibility of establishing a Hospitality and Tourism Academy for young people aged 14 – 18.
The concept is based upon the Engineers of the Future, which was a college, university, employer partnership with a view to promoting engineering as a career and  engineering qualifications ranging from vocational to higher academic levels.
Hospitality and Tourism are key growth industries within East Lothian and are currently  two of the most likely destinations for young people leaving school. Jewel and Esk College and Queen Margaret University specialise in offering Higher National Qualifications and under graduate and post graduate courses in specific and associated fields of study.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council have prioritised the need for links to be established between schools and the Further Education and Higher Education sectors. The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence guidelines require all schools to make positive changes to their curriculum at all levels, with a particular focus upon making the senior phase more related to employability and lifelong learning. Those priorities, together with the More Choices More Chances agenda for promoting positive destinations for all school leavers, combine to provide a unique alignment of circumstances for partners in our respective fields to collaborate in finding new ways of delivering and connecting learning experiences for young people.
Our plan is to combine three elements for the Academy: vocational, business, and academic. These aspects are not hierarchical but are rather inter-related, i.e. a person can be working on a single aspect, work through from one aspect to another, or combine two or three of the aspects at any one time.
The Academy will have 45 students in a single cohort, made up of 15 students from each of the three schools serving the areas of highest levels of multiple deprivation in East Lothian. Within each cohort one third will be focusing upon vocational routes, one third on business, and one third on academic.
The Academy will have three year group cohorts :Year 1 equivalent to S4 (15/16 year olds); Year 2 – S5 (16/17 year olds); and Year 3 (17/18 year olds). Graduation from the Academy can occur at the conclusion of any one year.
Access to the Academy will be open to any student attending any of the three schools within the prototype programme. Students and their parents will be introduced to the Academy at the end of S2 and invited to apply to join the application year programme. This programme will involve students attending three evening sessions over the course of the coming year, one at a hub school; one at the college and one at the university. In addition they will have their commitment to personal study, academic progress and any work experience monitored throughout the year. A final interview at the end of S3 will select the 15 students from each school, with the proportions following the previously explained vocational, business, and academic criteria. The most important selection criterion will be evidence of personal commitment, e.g. attendance, timekeeping, dedication to a personal interest.
The Academy curriculum will be a combination of existing school-based courses which can be related to hospitality and tourism, and some compulsory and elective units which will be delivered in the evening at nominated schools, the college, or university. We have considered the possibility of offering some courses before the start of the school day, thereby reflecting some of the realities of working in the industry and also maximising the assets in our schools.
As students progress through the Academy we will seek to enhance their school curriculum with college, or university based courses/modules, with a greater proportion of their time being spent outside school as they progress.
Of course, one of the vital elements missing from this description relates to the role of employers and the world of work. Our intention is to form strategic partnerships with a number of prestige companies involved in the hospitality and tourism industry. Through linking with their training divisions and drawing upon their expertise we would intend to create a very high quality learning experience which will be worthwhile in it’s own right, regardless of a student’s eventual employment destination, but also one which is eventually seen to be a of high regard by future employers in the industry.
We would see work experience to be a fundamental part of the Academy programme with the hope that some students will eventually graduate into full time employment with some of the placement employers.
Our next steps are to continue with our deliberations and seek to establish partnerships with employers to involve them in the design phase. In addition we will work with the Funding Council, the Scottish Government and local individuals. Our strategic steering team will be complemented by an operational group who will work out the details of the programme, consult with young people, parents and employers, and prepare for the first cohort to commence in September 2012.
We see the benefit of this project to extend beyond those who might participate. By establishing strong links between schools, the college and university, and employers we begin to create a new form of learning experience for young people and explore new forms of collaborative delivery which blurs the distinctions between providers and employers. By creating a motivated group of students, who have a strong commitment to personal learning within and beyond school, we shall create a group who will influence others by their behaviour.
Finally, the Academy concept has the potential to be replicated in other schools and in other fields of study and industry, which may reflect local opportunities and connections.