City restaurant teams up with UCB to recruit aspiring hospitality talent

January 2017

One of Birmingham’s top restaurants, Opus, has designed an apprentice scheme with UCB in a bid to develop final year students and close the ever-growing skills gap in the hospitality industry. 

The restaurant, which has a 2 AA Rosettes, recently introduced its first tailor-made scholarship programme for waiters and aspiring managers. It is one of the first restaurant-based apprentice schemes of its kind to concentrate on ‘front of house’ learning. 

The move by the city restaurant follows news from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) that 69 per cent of employers are concerned about the skills gap. The Opus Scholarship scheme is a 40 week programme, designed to enhance undergraduates’ industry-based skills by providing relevant paid work experience across all three venues. 

Students will receive expert advice, guidance and training in every part of a restaurant, from the reception, kitchen, floor and bar all the way through to hosting private dining and organising events. 

Katie Bytheway, Employability Manager at Hired@UCB, the University’s careers, employability and enterprise service, said: “Working with Opus on this Front of House Scholarship has been fantastic. It provides our final year Hospitality students with a real opportunity to launch their careers whilst finishing their studies. The application process, even for those that weren’t successful, is invaluable and provides students with the chance to practise interviewing and talk about their employability skills. 

“Having the chance to work across all three Opus properties, under the guidance of experienced managers and team members, provides a structured and progressive model for career development. Hired@UCB will aim to use the Opus Scholarship as a role model to roll out further scholarships for our students.” 

Alexey Zapuskalov and Mingqiao LI, known as Sherry, were chosen from more than a dozen applicants following a rigorous interview process. Alongside their studies, the students will be taught by some of the best in the business.

Applicants were asked to post a YouTube video explaining what makes them stand out from others, as well as answering what they think is the most important aspect of hospitality, what they believe to be their strengths and weaknesses, and what they aspire to be. 

Alexey, 22, who has lived in the Midlands for seven years, said: “I’ve had experience in working for small, independent and sustainable companies and the family, personal feel that Opus presents to the public is something I really admire and wanted to be a part of. 

“I am willing to constantly develop my skills, not just my technical skills in things like face-to-face service, but also my managerial skills, and I believe the Opus scheme is the perfect opportunity to do this,” he added. 

The second successful candidate, 24-year-old Sherry, who is in her final year at UCB, said: “The specifics of the training programme were the most attractive part of the scheme to me. Opus’ sustainability sets a real example in the industry and I love how they use local farming techniques to protect the environment.” 

Pawel Skrzypinkski, general manager of Opus, said: “Hiring and supporting chef apprentices has been a fundamental aspect to developing our team here. Through the UCB scheme, we have taken on several apprentices every year and we’ve seen some exceptional results. 

“Apprenticeships are a great way of bringing young people into our restaurant and offering them a chance to develop vital skills for their career. Young people are crucial in hospitality - their enthusiasm, fresh perspectives and knowledge on upcoming trends are invaluable - and we must give them opportunities at entry level. We are very excited to get Alexey and Sherry on board through the scheme, and to help nurture their skills.” 
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