It’s all about Watford working together: college, employers and young people…

At the core of West Herts College’s mission is to prepare you for your next step in life.

For those set to plunge straight into a career, West Herts College will ensure you have the foundation from which to take your first step and one of the biggest undertakings for this is work experience.

The college is committed to working with businesses across Watford and securing placements, to make young people work ready and productive when they leave.

Employers can interview possible candidates to find the most suitable ones – a process which is also an invaluable experience for students.

The college works with both students and employers on very flexible terms to secure time in work that is most beneficial to both parties.

Companies can offer varied hours, with a strict number of days or a set rota.

For students, the college ensure the best times for them as well so they are always busy, or on special projects, and remain useful and not a burden to their host employer.

These work experience opportunities are very different to the norm, with the programme regarded as sector leading in education for its partnership engagement with employers.

West Herts College works with students to prepare them for their work experience placement so that they get the most out of it. They will be doing a real job when they are with the employer.

The key and highly reputable businesses in Watford who work with the college and their students are The Grove Hotel and John Lewis…

The Grove

Students can work directly with the head chef Stephen Wheeler at this world renowned hotel. Stephen has been working as a chef for more than 30 years and has an impressive collection of world famous venues under his belt, such as Grosvenor House Hotel and Harrods in London, Hyatt Hotels in Australia and he event spent 12 years in the Maldives with Six Senses & Constance Hotels before returning to the UK to work at The Grove.

He is now responsible for the whole culinary operation at the hotel, consisting of three restaurants, a busy banquet operation and leading a team of more than 90 chefs. For students, the chance to work alongside him is hard to beat.

He explains why work experience is so important: “It gives students a real insight into the working environment and they gain a vast amount of knowledge from a hands on operation in a real working environment.

“Because the Grove has such a diverse F&B operation, students are fortunate enough to move between all of our kitchens to gain the relevant experience, from The Glasshouse our buffet restaurant, to The Stables one of our a la carte restaurants, through to the pastry kitchen to learn about all dessert and bakery preparation and afternoon tea, along with our unique banquet operation.”

It seems pretty clear how beneficial this is for students of West Herts College, and Stephen has a few words of advice to add: “Be motivated & passionate and dedicate yourself to the profession, it is a tough industry but very satisfying and rewarding with so many great opportunities. Do all the research first and ask as many questions as you can from Industry professionals.”

John Lewis

At their Watford office, students from West Herts College doing work experience with John Lewis learn to deliver a warm and friendly customer experience and to help resolve customer queries.

They learn about, and help deliver, market leading merchandising and presentation standards, working within a team to understand and help deliver sales targets which allows them to gain an understanding of company structure, process and procedure.

I spoke to Stacey Frame, operational support coordinator, about why work experience is fundamental to young people’s futures.

She tells me: “Work experience is vitally important in helping young people make the transition from education into work. Thus it is extremely valuable to students, both in terms of their academic performance and their employability skills.

“We aim to equip students with certain soft skills such as team working, communication skills and commercial awareness, all of which are sought after by employers.

Completing a placement can sometimes lead directly to subsequent employment with the same employer.

It can be ‘a foot in the door’ that could potentially lead to a temporary or permanent contract.

I wondered whether Stacey and the John Lewis team saw visible changes in those on work placements from their first day to their last.

“Absolutely,” she replies. “We see how it enhances their self-confidence, maturity and their interpersonal skills.”

Corona Energy

Molly Kenneally, recruitment adviser, believes "work experience placements are important as it gives students the opportunity to understand the working world".

She adds: "They get to put what they have learnt during their course into practice. It’s also important to us here at Corona Energy to give back to the local community and it’s great for employees who are not currently Team Leaders to mentor the students whilst on their placements."

Students tend to have a six weke placement with the company, during which times they have the opportunity to attend meetings, shadow colleagues in a variety of work and are given their own projects to work on. 

"I hope they leave us with a better understanding of what it’s like to work in an office environment and that they really enjoyed their time with us," says Molly.

"The students seem much more confident from when they start to when they finish! It’s great to see that growth in them and its lovely to hear how much they enjoyed their time with Corona Energy."