Jack Dewhurst, Author at Capital City College Group
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Black History Month – Inspirational black leaders share their advice with students

Six inspirational black leaders shared their advice and experience with students when they joined a discussion panel at Westminster Kingsway College.

Around 50 students attended the debate that took place at the college’s King’s Cross Centre to mark Black History Month, which runs throughout October.

The panel of speakers comprised:

  • Frankie Davies – Careers and Employability Advisor and owner of online retail business PixieDivine
  • Naz Deen – Head of Youth and Sport at children’s charity Coram’s Fields
  • Vanessa Holondo – Policy Advisor at the Home Office
  • Kehinde Ndede – Lead Business Analyst at the Home Office
  • Michelle Green, Self-employed motivational coach for young people
  • George Osei-Oppong – IT Engineer and CEO of tech firm HostHelp

During the debate, the panel were asked questions about the challenges they have faced, their role models and inspirations and biggest achievements, as well as offering students their top tips for success.

Kehinde, who has worked at the Home Office for three years, revealed how the issue of her race and gender was still prevalent in her career and how she had overcome challenges in the workplace.

She said: “I’m a senior manager in a male-dominated environment and a young, black woman. I find that challenging as I’m constantly having to prove myself. I’ve had to be quite assertive and say this is my point or perspective and this is why.”

Offering her advice to students, she added: “For me, it was about being able to do my job well and having belief in myself and that I am able to deliver, knowing I have the skills and capabilities to do this job and that’s why I’m here.”

“Have the confidence to speak out and voice your concern in a professional way. It’s the way you approach situations and circumstances that will determine how people react. It’s about being able to express yourself in a clear way that people understand and the reason behind it, and also going for whatever opportunities come your way irrespective of what anyone thinks.”

Michelle, who has 15 years’ experience working with young people in education, mentoring, youth offending, online protection and safeguarding, encouraged students to believe in themselves and what they can achieve.

She said: “One of the biggest challenges along the way is doubting yourself. Be clear about what you want. When you ask yourself that question it can be difficult to define and get that answer. I really looked at that, focused on it and wrote it down, and then said right this is what I’m going to go for.”

On the importance of good role models, she added: “They’re important because they mould your character and who you want to be. Find people who motivate and encourage you on your journey, and who you can look up to and imitate. Find someone you can aspire to, whether it’s a black person or not, and take what is good from them, and anything else leave aside.”

The panel also encouraged students to network and build experience through volunteering, try things out of their comfort zone, learn from other people’s experiences, take the positives from every challenge and be bold, authentic and themselves.

The discussion panel was one of many Black History Month events being hosted at WestKing, which also included:

  • Film screenings of Becoming, a documentary about Michelle Obama, and Rocks, a film about a black British teenage girl and her younger brother abandoned by their mother and facing being taken into care.
  • A book club focusing on Marlorie Blackman’s acclaimed novel Noughts & Crosses, which was recently turned into a BBC TV drama.
  • Themed debates including one entitled BAME Is Not My Name, which explored whether the term BAME should be ditched.
  • A poetry society celebrating black feminism where students were asked to share a verse and their thoughts and experiences.

The events were organised by the Student Services team, which runs a wide range of enrichment activities for learners throughout the year including employability workshops, curriculum events and national competitions.

Find out more about College Life here.

Rising stars from CANDI and WestKing up for UK Entertainment Awards

Rising stars Amel Rachedi and Babatunde Aléshé who studied at two of London’s top colleges have been shortlisted in this year’s UK Entertainment Awards.

The pair are up for Best Presenter and Best Comedian in the awards that celebrate and recognise talent in music, comedy, online media and film. The winners will be decided by a public vote on the UK Entertainment UK Awards website, which closes on 26 October.

Amel presents her show Brunch with Amel on Instagram from her home in Ladbroke Grove and has more than 30,000 followers, having previously been a presenter on London-based hip-hop and RnB internet radio station Pulse88.

During her presenting career she has been invited to red carpet events and interviewed big names including Emeli Sandé, Sean Paul, Keri Hilson, Shaggy, Mr Vegas and Beenie Man.

She said: “I am so flattered and shocked to have been nominated. I feel so humbled and grateful that my work has been acknowledged. There are a lot of creatives in the industry doing amazing things and to be recognised is absolutely insane.”

Amel initially wanted to become a fashion designer and studied Fashion and Textiles at City and Islington College (CANDI) from 2008-11.

She said: “At the beginning I was always into fashion and creating looks. I had a great teacher at CANDI. Her name was Isatu Taylor and she was so lovely and down to earth. I really enjoyed it at college, it was part of my journey. I think it’s okay to try other things in your 20s, there’s no right or wrong way.”

Amel built up a network of contacts in the creative industries when she left college and began working as a runner, researcher and production assistant for TV, radio and commercials, eventually booking celebrities for interviews.

She said: “The producers started telling me that I should be on TV or radio. I was close to a freelance producer who took me under her wing and started bringing me on to shows. I got my first slot on Pulse88 in 2019 and started presenting my own show on Instagram seven months ago.

“I have had guests come on I never would’ve dreamt I would be interviewing. Meeting Sean Paul in real life and having Keri Hilson on my show was surreal. I remember thinking, how is this even happening? It’s been a lot of hard working in pushing but I’m now the happiest I’ve ever been I never thought something like this would be possible. It’s crazy when I look back on what I’ve achieved.”

Babatunde studied Performing Arts at WestKing from 2002-05. He is one of the brightest stars on the black British comedy circuit and a past winner in the Black Entertainment Comedy Awards.

He said: “I’m overwhelmed to have been shortlisted. This is the first award nomination I’ve had in quite a few years and was completely out of the blue. I never expected it. Hopefully, I will win, but even if I don’t it’s nice to be recognised for my craft as a comedian.”

Babatunde, who grew up in Tottenham and now lives in Stevenage, is currently on tour with fellow comic Mo Gilligan who he appeared on Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox last year.

He said: “It’s great to be back performing stand-up and supporting Mo. I’ve learnt so much from him and sharpen my act every time I’m on stage. I love making people laugh and being entertaining. It’s always been my passion. Seeing smiles on people’s faces is the best thing.”

Babatunde lists Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle among his inspirations and appeared in the latter’s live comedy show The Process in 2018. More recently he was seen performing stand-up on Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club on ITV.

After WestKing, Babatunde went on to study acting at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His TV and film credits include Waking the Dead, Doctor Who and EastEnders.

 “I loved it at WestKing because I had a lot of freedom to express myself as an actor,” he said.

“I always sing my lecturer Rob Alexander’s praises because he was the best teacher I ever had.  He was a funny guy who saw my passion to make people laugh but also showed me I was able to do more serious dramatic acting as well. He saw there were more layers to me that just the comic.”

Click here to vote now for Amel and Babatúndé in the UK Entertainment Awards.

Apply now for Art and Design courses at CANDI and Performing Arts Courses at WestKing.

Hospitality Apprenticeships Week – ‘You cannot fail to be impressed by WestKing’s prestige’

To mark Hospitality Apprenticeships Week (18-22 October), we spoke to Craig Parsons, Apprenticeship Manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner, about apprenticeships and careers with the company’s 400 pubs, bars and hotels.

Tell us about your career in hospitality.

I’m a chef by trade but my job is to manage the apprenticeships for the whole Fuller’s estate.

Although I studied for a Sports Biomedicine degree, I loved cooking and wanted to pursue a career in the kitchen. At the time you couldn’t do an apprenticeship if you had a degree, so I applied for various jobs instead. I was given the opportunity to trial working in a kitchen, which eventually led to working for two AA rosette pubs.

I read a lot of books and developed my own style and role in restaurants, ski chalets and hotels. I’ve also been involved in food development for big supermarkets and worked for an apprenticeship provider. Because I couldn’t get on an apprenticeship myself, I wanted to give other people the education they deserve.

Tell us more about Fuller’s relationship with WestKing.

We began running Commis Chef and Chef de Partie apprenticeships with WestKing in 2019 and currently have 30 apprentices training. The college is renowned for being one of the best educational establishments for cookery in the world and we’re delighted they’re now in our network of education providers.

Whenever we look to work with a college, we always send our staff out to experience a class for themselves. You cannot fail to be impressed by WestKing’s prestige and ethos and we know the apprentices are going to be trained to the highest standards.

What skills will apprentices gain during their apprenticeship?

Our apprenticeships are about giving people the best education, not just for now but for later in life. At Fuller’s, we don’t always need to prep food from start to finish, but we still train our chefs with those skills because we know they’re going to use them in the future. It’s not just about what Fuller’s needs but about the whole industry.

The reason we use colleges is because they give students room to fail and that is often the best way to learn. From advanced pasta making to butchering, it’s important to have a safe environment where you can get advice and have room to improve.

What do you look for in an apprentice?

Ultimately, we’re looking for people with the right attitude, who want to get out of bed in the morning and have the drive to come to an interview and apply themselves at work and college. I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t join our apprenticeship programme.

Why is hospitality such a good career?

A career in hospitality can take you anywhere. I always had in my head that I didn’t want to stay in one environment for more than two years, although I’ve been at Fuller’s for seven years now.

At Fuller’s, you can move around and gain experience in many different environments and still have the security of a large company that offers great pay and benefits. You can earn from day one, add your own twist to dishes on the menus and become a head chef in four or five years.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a hospitality career?

Don’t just look at the name of the employer you want to work for, look at the training you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s not clear exactly what training is being offered. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for.

How is Fuller’s responding to the impact of the COVID pandemic?

COVID has had such an impact. The Government wants to push everyone into STEM careers. I can understand the motivation behind it but we’re starting to see big gaps across the hospitality sector.We need them to react to what’s going on and recognise the industry needs help to get people trained and into work.

There is going to be a new population of people looking for hospitality careers and there’s also a lot of untapped potential out there.At Fuller’s, we’re looking to expand our apprenticeship team and ways to increase awareness of apprenticeships across the sector.

We’re also planning further school liaisons to engage with young people.We’ve previously ran school events where we would teach the students skills such as how to fillet a fish and have had candidates coming forward off the back of that, so we know it works.

What are the benefits of being an apprentice with Fuller’s?

We started with a chef apprenticeship programme in 2016 because that is where we had a skills shortage. We started with 16 apprentices and now have more than 120 across the business. As well as chef apprenticeships we also run training programmes for our front of house and general managers. One of the biggest benefits is that we offer all our apprentices a permanent role upon completion of their programme. Fuller’s is also making big changes to its current pay and benefits package. We’re already industry leading with our apprenticeship pay and about to offer the highest national pay rate.

The learning opportunities are endless. Our apprentices can compete in our annual Chef of the Year competition, where past winners have had the chance to visit Michelin star restaurants in New York and Hong Kong. We also provide visits to our supply chain to see how our meat and produce is sourced and prepared.

Fuller’s has also won awards pre-COVID including Best Apprenticeship Training Programme at the British Institute of Innkeeping National Innovation in Training Awards and a silver award for Best Apprenticeship Programme at the Training Journal Awards.

How are our current apprentices doing?

They are all loving their apprenticeships and have remained positive despite COVID. They say it’s been tough but are seeing the positive impact the training is going to have on their future careers. There will always be cases where some people are struggling but we’ve got the support mechanisms in place to help them one-to-one and through the Licensed Trade Charity.

How do you see your partnership with WestKing developing?

I’ve been to an induction day at WestKing and plan to go and see some of the cookery sessions next year. I’m keen to get our general managers and head chefs along to the college and help co-train and co-assess learners, which will not only remind them of culinary techniques but also teach them about new trends and increase their skillset.

How do you apply for an apprenticeship with Fuller’s?

All apprenticeships at Fuller’s are advertised on our website and on job sites like indeed.co.uk. Successful applicants will be assessed by a college on their suitability for an apprenticeship.

WestKing runs Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships with many companies across the sector. Click here to Apply Now.

Celebrating Hospitality Apprenticeships Week 2021

This week (18-22 October) is Hospitality Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of apprenticeships in the culinary and hospitality sector. It’s also a chance to showcase the unique and diverse range of careers that are available.

This year we will be training almost 100 hospitality apprentices for a wide range of well-known hospitality companies, so we’ve taken a closer look at why so many great employers look to us to train their apprentices.

On 24 September, Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in the heart of London celebrated the graduation of its classes of 2020 and 2021.

Around 200 students donned mortarboards and gowns and received their diplomas for completing courses and training in culinary arts, kitchen and larder, hospitality and events, patisserie and restaurant service.

For Sharon Barry, the college’s Head of School for Hospitality Apprenticeships, watching the ceremony and celebrations that followed also marked the end of another successful year for the college’s apprenticeships team.

Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) is part of the Capital City College Group. Most of the Group’s apprentices are trained by its specialist training arm, called Capital City College Training. But uniquely, the hospitality and culinary apprentices are all trained at WestKing’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

This is for a very good reason. The college has a long-standing reputation in the hospitality industry, earned over many decades, of providing the highest quality training for young chefs and other restaurant and hotel staff. So, it makes sense for the Group’s chef apprentices to be trained by Westminster Kingsway College’s expert chef lecturers, in the college’s industry-grade kitchens. And, the college’s reputation in the hospitality sector is so strong, that employers know and trust WestKing to train their apprentices to a very high standard.

So far this academic year, 76 apprentices have enrolled on WestKing’s Chef de Partie and Commis Chef apprenticeship programmes, with another 19 due to enrol in Nov, making 95 in all. And, as Sharon explains, there is a greater need than ever before for well-trained apprentices.

“Even before COVID there was a shortage of chefs in the industry; now there is a massive shortage of chefs, as restaurants, hotels and other hospitality venues open up after the pandemic.

That isn’t the only thing that has changed in the industry, says Sharon: “Many employers are looking at their recruitment more than they had before the pandemic. They want to upskill their staff and they need people who have got a wider skill set – people who can move around kitchens and take on a variety of tasks. Taking on an apprentice enables employers to do that.”

Like most apprentices, those studying at Victoria have a full-time paid job – typically in a restaurant or a top hotel – and attend college one day each week to learn additional skills. “Apprentices need to know a lot.” says Sharon. “Even in the biggest restaurants, someone won’t be doing all the things that they need to know to successfully complete their apprenticeship, so coming to WestKing – combined with the skills they learn in their jobs – makes them more rounded, highly skilled and employable. The feedback we get from our employers is that they like the way we do things.”

“The majority of our apprentices come to us direct. We know what good quality culinary and hospitality apprenticeship vacancies are available, so we sit down with prospective apprentices, get to know them, and point them in the direction of vacancies that might be right for them – trying to match them up with suitable employers.

“Then they apply for the vacancy and go for an interview with their prospective employer. And if they are successful, they get the job and come back to us one day each week for their apprentice training.”

So which companies trust Westminster Kingsway College to train their apprentices? It’s a who’s who of hospitality employers, including: Harrods; the contract caterers Compass; Hilton hotels; The Landmark Hotel; The Waterside Inn (Alain Roux’s 3 Michelin-starred restaurant); The Dorchester hotel; the Grosvenor House Hote; The Ritz; the pub chain Fullers; and Le Gavroche.

One such apprentice is 18 year old Guy Sherman, who last year was on a Commis Chef apprenticeship while working at The Dorchester hotel. In June, Guy was interviewed by the leading hospitality magazine, Chef, and he was full of praise for the college. He said: “The support from the college has been exceptional, always pushing me to enter new competitions. In the middle of 2020 I entered the International Salon Culinarie where … I managed to walk away with two medals.”

Guy is far from being the only apprentice to have gained from the experience. Everyone benefits from a hospitality apprenticeship, says Sharon. “The apprentice has a paid job, and they are learning all the time. They are learning while they are doing their day job, and they are learning those extra skills when they are here on their day-release. And the employer gets a highly-trained specialist with more knowledge and expertise than they would have if they weren’t on their apprenticeship. It’s a win-win.

“I truly believe in what we offer here.” Sharon concludes, as she looks ahead to the coming year with a new group of apprentices. “It’s nice to see the new apprentices progress, even after a few weeks, when I do lesson observations, I can see they are more confident already.

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships.

Student’s pride at being shortlisted for Student of the Year for championing LGBTQ+ rights

A student who championed LGBTQ+ rights at Westminster Kingsway College has told of his pride after being shortlisted for Young Student of the Year.

Nilton Pimenta, 18, was thrilled at being named among seven students across the country to be in contention for the annual Association of Colleges’ award.

He was put forward by the college where he achieved an A and two Bs in his A Levels last summer, which secured him a place at the University of Manchester where he is studying for a BA Social Sciences.

Nilton received homophobic abuse when he came out as gay when he was 15 but has remained proud of his sexuality and campaigned on a wide range of diversity issues.

He said: “This is incredible! I’m so honoured and completely overwhelmed by this nomination. During my time at WestKing, I went from strength to strength with our student ambassadors to promote equality, diversity and inclusion through a wide range of societies, podcasts and LGBTQ+ resources across the college.

“One thing I’ll remember so fondly is the sense of belonging felt by the student groups and the promotion of a study friendly environment. The college will always have a special place in my heart, and I want to thank all the staff at WestKing for their fabulous work.”

In her nomination for Nilton, Laura Elliott, Head of Learner Services and Operations, wrote: “Nilton has fearlessly held his identity as a gay man with pride, using his experiences to fuel his desire for equality and awareness with a tenacity that is nothing short of inspirational.”

Nilton’s sheer determination saw him elected as a Student Governor, representing 10,000 students. He also wrote articles for student websites and helped create banners to promote inclusivity at the college.

Laura continued: “Nilton leads from the front, unapologetically sharing his views with others on how to improve a diverse range of issues within the college, such as the socio-economic divide, racism and LGBT awareness.”

While he was at WestKing, Nilton was awarded the Camden Spotlight Award in this year’s Camden Youth Awards, presented to a young person who has provided help and support to a group of people at their place of education or in the community.

He was also named among the recipients in this year’s Jack Petchey Achievement Awards, which each year recognise around 12,000 outstanding young people aged 11-25 from schools, colleges and youth organisations across London and Essex.

Finalists for the Student of the Year awards will be chosen by a panel of judges and named at the Association of College’s Annual Conference in November with the winners and runners up announced next spring.

Apply now to study at Westminster Kingsway College.

Former Westminster Kingsway Apprentice Alex Webb wins BBC Masterchef

A former apprentice at Westminster Kingsway College has been crowned Masterchef: The Professionals 2020 champion. 

Alex Webb, 25, who trained at the college from 2013-15, described the moment as “a day all my chef dreams have come true” after becoming the 14th winner of the BBC One series. 

He said: “It is the best feeling I have ever had in my life. To walk away with the trophy is incredible. I am so proud.” 

Alex took on 31 fellow professional chefs in the quest for gastronomic glory, cooking his way through six increasingly intense weeks of culinary challenges and producing outstanding dishes along the way. 

He impressed Michelin-starred Marcus Wareing, renowned chef Monica Galetti and MasterChef’s seasoned judge Gregg Wallace from the start, with his elegant dishes bringing a little bit of style and theatre to the competition.

Alex also received high praise from critics and top UK chefs during the competition, including at the Chef’s Table where Anna Haugh described his dish as “perfect in every single way” while Aktar Islam called it “incredible”.

Marcus said: “Today was Alex’s finest day. We have seen a young chef come of age. He is a brilliant young chef, I love his thirst for knowledge, and he has cooked beyond his years. MasterChef is about the next generation and for me as a chef I see Alex as the future.” 

Monica describes Alex’s food as having “a cheeky sense of humour in it” and his youth comes through in his cooking, while Gregg also referred to his “sense of fun” and that he “hits notes of brilliance” when it comes to fine dining. 

Alex likes to create traditional French dishes and put his own twist and sense of fun on them. He outshone his competitors in the challenges that included creating and delivering a Michelin-standard dish for eight international culinary experts and then cooking a dish dedicated to someone special. 

For his final menu, Alex produced a scallop starter with artichoke and pear tartare followed by a main of pan-seared trout with parsnip, and a mussel and caviar cream sauce and mini fish pie sauce, followed by a white chocolate and passionfruit dome with a prosecco sorbet. 

Talking about his experience on the show, Alex said: “I decided to enter MasterChef because I wanted to see how far I could go. Winning is something I will always be very proud of. I really wanted it and all the blood, sweat and tears and sleepless nights have paid off.” 

Alex was born and bred in Essex and is Head Chef at Square One restaurant in Dunmow where he started washing pots when he was 15. He trained at Westminster Kingsway College and has been hugely influenced by fellow Essex chef and WestKing alum Jamie Oliver, as well as his current boss Spencer Hewitt.

Speaking about his next steps, Alex said: “I want to enjoy the moment and make the most of all the opportunities which may be out there.  

“I have lots of ideas for a book and I really enjoyed the experience of being in front of the camera, so would like to look into any chances there may be to do more of this.  

“I will continue to work in the restaurant I do now, and I would like to keep learning and pushing myself. Then, hopefully one day, I will be able to achieve my big dream of owning my own restaurant.”

Many congratulations Alex, from everyone here at Westminster Kingsway College!

We have trained thousands of chefs over the years and are one of the UK’s finest colleges for the culinary arts. If you want to follow in Alex’s footsteps and maybe cook your way to greatness, look no further. Click here for our Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships.

Queen's Award for Enterprise