Ex-students inspire next generation at UCB food and hospitality conference

October 2019

Former University College Birmingham students have returned to Summer Row to help inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps in the food and hospitality industry.

Hosted by the College of Food and Hospitality Management, the Inspire Conference in September welcomed six alumni from a range of professional backgrounds to share their journeys since their time at UCB.

Former BA Hospitality with Events Management student Kenya McFarlane, who works in hospitality for Gaudet Luce Golf and Leisure Complex in Worcestershire, revealed how her UCB studies had contributed directly to her work in the industry.

"During my time at UCB we did a course where we had to create events,” she said. “I have since taken some of the events I created here to other companies in the industry.

“I also went to a hotel where they had a system which I realised I had already spent a month studying at the University.”

Having also worked in events and hospitality for a major bank and an independent café since leaving UCB, Kenya said there is a wide range of opportunities for graduates who are able to demonstrate their passion for the sector.

“You can do absolutely anything you want in hospitality,” she said. “It's a broad industry.

“It’s about who you know sometimes, so it’s important to work while you’re at university. It takes you places as once you’ve finished, you’ll be able to get into a job that others without the experience would find it harder to go for.”

Kenya’s advice on the value of industry experience was echoed by former BA Hospitality Business Management student Tom Gallimore, who now works as General Manager at Hotel du Vin Birmingham.

“We’ve got speakers here from different backgrounds – some do recruitment, or have run a fish and chip shop, or done contract catering,” he said. “I think it’s good to get that broad spectrum.

“You might love contract catering or working in a hotel, but you need to try it to know it.”

Among the other speakers at the conference were Conrad Brunton (Managing Director at Tonic Talent), Gabrielle Le Roux (Programme Developer and Manager at Baxter Storey Service Academy) and Emma Rankin (Events Officer at Birmingham City Council), as well as Naomi Morris, founder of street food business Morridge.

In addition to hearing from alumni, students attending the conference also had the chance to learn about work opportunities for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Guest speaker James Walsh, Head of Legacy and Engagement on the Birmingham 2022 organising committee, revealed around 41,000 games-time roles are expected to be created over the next three years.

“Many of the courses at UCB are really transferable in terms of the roles we’re creating,” said James. “The key for us is making sure students know about the opportunities that exist in the city in the coming three years.”

If you are interested in getting involved in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham or are considering a career in the hospitality and events sectors, UCB offers a wide range of work placements and opportunities for you to gain valuable industry experience. To find out more, visit our hired@UCB employability, careers and placements service.

Find out more about our range of courses within the College of Food and Hospitality Management here.

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