"The pandemic has brought changes to the wider industry and it is important that they learn the new skills and procedures which hospitality businesses across the board are having to adopt."
Supported Learning students in Leamington have risen to the challenge of running their college Bistro in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
The students, who all have learning difficulties or disabilities, work in the Bistro at Royal Leamington Spa College as part of their catering course to equip them with employment skills for the hospitality industry.
The popular Bistro is normally open during term-time to serve an extensive menu to the public as well as staff and students at the college, which is part of WCG (formerly Warwickshire College Group).
Food is freshly prepared and served by Supported Learning Catering students, and Skillbuilder students, under the supervision of staff.
It had not been able to operate with the temporary closure of the college during lockdown, but was able to reopen with the college at the start of this term by offering a takeaway menu available to staff and students only in order to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines.
Carol Savage, Curriculum Leader for Supported Learning at WCG, said the students had impressed with the way they had adapted to the new way of working and were learning new skills which reflect changes in the hospitality sector due to the pandemic.
She said: “Like many businesses in the hospitality industry, we have had to make changes to the way we operate which has involved us moving to a takeaway service and restricting our opening to just staff and students.
“For our Supported Learning students, the Bistro is such a valuable part of their course in preparing them for a career in hospitality and we wanted to maintain that real-life experience which stands them in such good stead.
“The pandemic has brought changes to the wider industry and it is important that they learn the new skills and procedures which hospitality businesses across the board are having to adopt.
“The students have adapted to the changes really well and have worked really hard to make a success of the new service. Because of their learning and emotional needs, a lot of our students have struggled during the lockdown so they have really benefited by being able to come back and work together again as a team.”
The Bistro is managed by Caroline Cook, with Carol Savage and lecturer Karen Stevenson running the kitchen where students prepare a freshly-made daily menu of soups, salads, paninis, baguettes and jacket potatoes to be served alongside handmade cakes and hot drinks.
WCG offers a range of Supported Learning programmes which include Supported Internships where students are able to work with a partnership of supportive employers to gain valuable employment skills before heading out into the world of work.
Carol added: “The Bistro was set up about 25 years ago as a vocational training area for our foundation catering students and plays a big part in them gaining employment, along with the supported internships we are able to provide through partnerships with local employers.”
For more information, visit wcg.ac.uk/study