November 2022

Partnership with Merlin Entertainments promises diversity boost for tourism industry

By Darren Campbell

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Read time: approx 6 mins

A new partnership which promises to provide a major boost for inclusion and diversity in the travel and tourism workforce is being developed between University College Birmingham and the UK’s biggest sector employers.

Merlin Entertainments have begun collaborating with the University to offer a wealth of new opportunities for students and graduates of diverse backgrounds who aspire to enter the dynamic fields of tourism, hospitality, leisure and events.

As one of the world's largest attraction operators, Merlin Entertainments runs hundreds of visitor attractions across the UK and around the globe, including resorts such as Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and LEGOLAND Parks alongside city and seaside destinations such as SEA LIFE aquariums, LEGO Discovery Centres and Madame Tussauds.

As part of growing links with the company, University College Birmingham welcomed Dominique Sidley, Global Trade Strategy Director for Merlin Entertainments, to deliver a series of talks for students at the University's McIntyre House campus building on Wednesday, 23 November.

"This university has great success in driving a diverse student body and partnerships like this enable us to see how this is done"

Dominique Sidley Global Trade Strategy Director, Merlin Entertainments

Students on tourism, hospitality, events and business courses had the chance to learn about career and placement opportunities with Merlin Entertainments, as well as attending a dedicated discussion around the company's commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion within its recruitment.

"One of the real positives about this university is the diversity of its students," said Dominique. "The profile of the students here absolutely matches what we believe the future of hospitality, travel and tourism needs to be.

"There are so many different characteristics required for the roles we have. We need diversity of thought and creative thinkers, to open ourselves up to community interest and input – two things I'm really excited about.

Dominique delivered a series of talks to students on our tourism, hospitality and events courses

"We need all our employees to represent the visitors that come to our attractions," she added. "I'm working with a lot of mixed gender, mixed ethnicity and mixed age focus groups to try and understand how we can better attract those future employees.

"This university has great success in driving a diverse student body and partnerships like this enable us to see how this is done."

University College Birmingham has a community of around 7,500 students, over 40% of whom come from BAME backgrounds, as well as welcoming international students from more than 57 countries.

The linkup between the University and Merlin Entertainments promises exciting benefits for both parties, not only growing awareness among students of the company but also helping open doors to future talent through work experience and graduate opportunities, visits from guest speakers, practical sessions and other projects.

"I'm thrilled about this partnership as I feel there were people in the audience today who now want to work for Merlin," said Dominique. "The students were among some of the most engaged I've spoken to within a university setting."

Among those attending the sessions was International Tourism Management FdA student Laura Hulme, who welcomed the insight into opportunities for diverse minorities within the travel and tourism sector.

"I really loved this talk because as a transgender and neurodiverse woman, I felt like I have a place in that kind of workforce in the future," said Laura, who is also a marketing officer for the Aviation and Tourism Society at the University's Guild of Students.

"It's really given me a lot of inspiration and feeling like I can achieve a good position in the future, and it has opened my mind about a lot of the initiatives concerning diversity and inclusion.

"Having that as something people focus on within the business is a very promising thing for people in certain minorities, and knowing that the hiring of social minorities increases the business's financial success is also very inspiring to see."

Dominique with senior lecturer Paul Bamber at McIntyre House

Paul Bamber, Senior Lecturer for Tourism, said: "It is very exciting for us to work more closely with an industry leader like Merlin Entertainments.

"Students will get more opportunities related to work experience and placements as well as advice for applying for graduate opportunities.

"This is a good time to join the tourism industry. It’s an awesome industry worldwide and there is lots of excitement post-Covid."

University College Birmingham is recognised as a Centre of Excellence by the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT), and offers a wide range of college, undergraduate and postgraduate courses for students looking to enter the fields of travel, hospitality, events and aviation.

Students benefit from a wealth of placement opportunities with industry partners throughout the world, engagement with employers at the ITT's annual Future You conference and employability fair, and practical training within our state-of-the-art facilities on campus, including our award-winning restaurant and our state-of-the-art Aviation and Tourism Suite complete with a mock plane cabin.

Discover our full range of courses here.

Explore career opportunities with Merlin here.

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