College creates its own brasserie to give students work experience

Students work in a new brasserie at the Bletchley campus of MK College
Students work in a new brasserie at the Bletchley campus of MK College

Young people often lose out in the job market because they don’t have experience of working in the real world.

It’s a vicious cycle of no experience and no work. But now a college has stepped in to fill the gap by actually creating a place where students can get that crucial experience.

Milton Keynes College has created a stylish Brasserie at its Bletchley campus, staffed almost entirely by students who are told to exhibit the highest professional standards.

Sarah King, who spent the last five years at Brasserie Blanc in The Hub, in Central Milton Keynes, is the manager at the student Brasserie.

She said; “We’re going to be serving the paying public and while they will no doubt be understanding when it comes to dealing with people who are learning their trade I expect our staff to be completely committed and to live up to the standards of a professional establishment.

“During their time here if they’re waiting at table they will need to be able to deal with customers properly, advise them about the wine – everything anyone serving at a restaurant in the city centre would be able to do,” she says.

In the kitchen, head chef Darren Klein said: “I will be strict with them, of course, but it’s important to understand that some of the students have never so much as peeled a carrot before they came here. I’ll make sure they have the time and the encouragement to learn everything they need to know to make a success of life after college. When they leave here they should have all the skills to be able to work with confidence in a four star restaurant.”

The students working in the Brasserie will also benefit from the college’s partnership with the Spirit Pub Company.

Spirit food training manager Lynne Kennedy said the company will have input into classroom training and around 75 students will each receive a week’s work experience at one of the company’s local outlets. On top of that they will have access to the Spirit e-learning portal which includes all the induction material used by the company’s new recruits.

Head of hospitality at the college, Debbie Houghton, said: “This is the first time Spirit has agreed to go into partnership with a college and we’re absolutely delighted the company has chosen Milton Keynes.

“It’s a pioneering project which it’s hoped might be rolled out across the country so we’re proud to be involved but also recognise our responsibility to get it right. I suspect it’s precisely because of ventures like the Brasserie where students have real “frontline exposure” that the industry sees the college as an institution worthy of such a relationship.”