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Press release

College, uni or real job?

Hospitality Academy helps kids take their pick.

There is no denying that the current jobs market is a tough place for teenagers right now. Competition has never been so high and many doors are closed to the unskilled, inexperienced youngster.

However, a pioneering new partnership involving a university, college and a local authority is equipping senior school pupils for real jobs in the hospitality and tourism industries.

The East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy is presenting 16 – 18 year old pupils from three East Lothian secondary schools with a wealth of opportunities as well as aiming to raise standards across Scotland’s hospitality and tourism industries. Aligning its work with the Scottish Government’s agenda, the Academy is helping to smooth the transition between school, college, university and work. Whether completing year 1, or both years of the Academy programme, the new model helps pupils to move seamlessly from school to college; from school to university; or if they choose; from school, college or university directly into industry.

The partnership involving Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh College and East Lothian Council is seeing 34 pupils on track to complete the first year of the progressive new programme. The first pupils to take part in the Academy - from Ross High, Tranent; Musselburgh Grammar; and Preston Lodge, Prestonpans – have all volunteered to be part of the Academy - a commitment which is over and above their full school timetable. Understanding the advantages of being part of the Academy, pupils have enthusiastically embraced their academic and practical skills classes which take place at Queen Margaret University and at Edinburgh College several times a month.

A major success of the Academy project has been the total buy-in of partner hotel groups such as Marriott Hotels, The Point, Archerfield, Prestonfield House, Novotel, Macdonald Hotels and the Caledonian Waldorf Astoria. These hotel groups are instrumental in exposing the youngsters to the workings of the industry by providing placement and hands-on event opportunities. The enthusiasm of the hotel groups is also about creating a dynamic young workforce which is fit for purpose – a ready-made source of young talent equipped with the right skills and knowledge to hit the ground running when entering the industry.

Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal of Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh has been one of the driving forces behind the Academy model. He explained: “It has been quite challenging to get the model up and running but the enthusiasm and commitment of all partners to make it work has been outstanding. The Academy model is based on everyone – schools, the college, the university, the Council and the partner hotel groups – working together to achieve a common goal. The Academy presents real, solid skills development for young people. We are trying to instil the philosophy that service excellence is the only acceptable standard. By doing this, we hope to equip these students with the skills and knowledge to secure the best industry jobs and, at the same time, develop a workforce which has the capacity to improve standards within Scotland’s hospitality and tourism industries.”

Viewed as a programme that will deliver real solutions for Scotland’s young people, the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy model is gaining the respect of many policy makers. So much so that The Scottish Funding Council has pledged £4.6million to roll out the model to other areas of the Lothians and the Borders, making new Academies available in food industries, the creative industries and healthcare. The new funding will see up to 1200 young people benefit from new skills development. The project could revolutionise how young people access education, training and employment, and it is hoped that it will raise pupils’ aspirations, enhance employability and support Scotland’s economic development in key areas of growth.

Nearing the end of its first year in operation, some of the students from the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy are already very clear about their next move.


Liam Reilly, Ross High

Liam Reilly, age 16 from Ross High, Tranent, has relished all of the experiences he’s had during this first year of the Academy, particularly the practical skills training. He has already applied to college for a place on the Professional Cookery programme to help him realise his dream of becoming a chef.

To Liam’s surprise, his successful completion of year 1 of the Academy guarantees him a place on SVQ 2 Professional Cookery course at Edinburgh College. His Academy membership means his entry to this course is automatic without requiring interview.

He said: “I am so pleased to know that I’ll be accepted for this course, which is the next step in my career. I don’t even have the stress of an interview. I’ve always been interested in food but the Academy has helped me develop my skills in cookery as well as given me an insight into the entire hospitality industry. Even though I already knew I wanted to be a chef, I am now aware of other opportunities within the industry. The practical skills training through the Academy has been amazing. I have even learned how to cook food at the table in front of the diners (flambé) and won a bronze medal in the national culinary championships at the SECC in Glasgow in the restaurant flambé class.

Shelby Dalgliesh, Preston Lodge High School

Sixteen year old Shelby Dalgliesh, from Preston Lodge High School, is a rising star within the Academy. Since day one, she has been focused on maximising every opportunity that has come her way through the programme. Even as a youngster, she had a passion for food but Shelby has a keen eye on the bigger picture when it comes to her hospitality career. In year 2 of the Academy, students can choose to work towards the Industry Award, which has a more practical focus, or the Management Award, which develops more managerial and leadership skills. On completion of the Academy’s first year, Shelby is choosing to follow the Management stream during her second year of the Academy. This will see her develop managerial and leadership skills in a variety of hospitality areas, giving her the option of direct entry (from S6 at school) to the second year of the BA (Hons) International Hospitality and Tourism Management programme at Queen Margaret University.

Shelby said: “One of the highlights of my first year Academy experience has been my placement with the Point Hotel in Edinburgh. I worked in reception, which I really enjoyed, and gained an insight into the important area of customer relations. However, the best thing about the Academy is that it gives you plenty of opportunities and options for shaping your future education or career. I can hardly believe that by completing the Management Award in my final year of school, that I would be guaranteed a place on the second year of the degree course at Queen Margaret University!”

Nick Howgarth, Reception Manager at The Point Hotel, described Shelby’s placement performance as “brilliant”.

Ron McGilp, East Lothian and Hospitality and Tourism Academy Coordinator, is employed by East Lothian Council and has been setting up and running the Academy programme in its first year. He said: “The students have been so enthusiastic about their involvement with the classes and the employers. They have loved the opportunity to come to both Edinburgh College and Queen Margaret University for their classes, and this has given them a great insight into college and university life as well as exposure to the industry. Our hotel partners, such as The Point Hotel, Edinburgh, have provided some outstanding visits to their businesses and some of the students have also had the opportunity to work in service at professional events.”

Discussing the two students, Ron explained: “These two young people have demonstrated their passion for the industry and it has been a privilege to see them grow and develop. For Liam, the Academy experience has confirmed his desire to enter the world of professional cookery. However, he now understands the impact that food production has on the overall business and the need for synergy between the different departments.

“Shelby was already a driven young woman with a good knowledge of food before entering the Academy. Over the last year, she has been able to examine and consider other areas within the hospitality industry, and judging by her positive placement feedback, is capable of flourishing in any area of the industry. She is a young lady who is going places and as such, she will articulate directly into the 2 nd year of the University degree course. Shelby is aware that the skills she is developing now, and will develop over the next few years, have the potential to provide her with the opportunity of an international career with the hospitality and tourism industries.”

Ron concluded: “The Academy provides options. Some students may choose to go into education and others may bypass this by going straight into industry. Some students may choose another line of work but during their time at the Academy, all of the students will have developed useful transferable skills which will give them a competitive advantage when entering the world of work.”

Ray McCowan, Vice-Principal at Edinburgh College, said: “This dynamic collaboration is setting a new benchmark in education. It will encourage young people to progress through college or university who may never have imagined that these options might be available to them.”

Even before the end of its first year in operation, the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy partners are still striving to offer even more award options. For Academy students who have their sights ultimately set on a degree course, they will now be able to complete an HNC in Hospitality over two years while still remaining at school. This HNC will be done alongside their Highers during S5 and S6. On successful completion, they will be able to progress to year 2 of the International Hospitality and Management degree at Queen Margaret University.

Ray McCowan believes this is a first for Scotland. He said: “The development of these various educational pathways for young people shows that the Academy is leading the way in the delivery of educational and hospitality industry solutions for Scotland.”

“However”, Ray continued: “what really makes this model work is the commitment from the employers. Their involvement is ensuring that our programme is industry relevant and that young people are gaining high quality, hands-on industry skills that will help them secure a bright future.”

Ray concluded: “There is no doubt that the Academy programme is opening the students’ eyes and minds to new possibilities whether they choose to go on within education or go directly into industry. It is a win-win situation for young people, education, industry and for Scotland.”

As the East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy rolls out to more school children in Lothian and the Borders, it will be looking for new hotel groups and hospitality and tourism operators to develop relationships with. Interested organisations which can offer placements and site visits should contact Ray McCowan at Edinburgh College on E:

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, East Lothian Council’s Education Convener, said: “The Academy is an innovative initiative which has drawn support from a wide range of partners. I am encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the youngsters who are fully committed to their participation within the Academy. The hospitality industry is a major component of both East Lothian and Scottish economies and I believe the success of the Academy will greatly enhance both educational and economic opportunities.”

Coordinators to run the new Academies in food industries, creative industries and healthcare have just been recruited. Organisations wishing to offer work placements and industry support to these new Academies should contact Professor Alan Gilloran at Queen Margaret University on E:


Notes to editor

  • Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal at Queen Margaret University, spoke about the Academy at ‘The Learner Journey’ (Holyrood conference) on the 13 th March 2013. Ronnie Summers, Head Teacher at Musselburgh Grammar School, also spoke at the conference.
  • Five Academy students competed in the National Culinary Championships which took place at Scothot 2013 (trade only exhibition) at the SECC this week (March). All five pupils won bronze medals at the ‘Restaurant Flambe class – a great achievement considering they are up against college students and people with much more experience than them, many of whom worked for hotels such as Gleneagles. The students had to cook and present two portions of a flambé main course and two portions of a sweet in just 30 minutes.

The award winning Academy students were:

  • Liam Riley and Beth Whitson (Ross High School)
  • Jake Lavery (Preston Lodge High School)
  • Lauren Cain and Megan Rush (Musselburgh Grammar)
  • For further information about the Academy visit:
  • List all partner institutions: Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, Marriott, Best Western Edinburgh Capital Hotel, Archerfield House, Novotel, Mercure, Jurys Inn, Fraser Suites Edinburgh, Point Hotel Edinburgh, Prestonfield and The Caledonian Waldorf Astoria Hotel.



  • Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.
  • Ray McCowan, Vice-Principal at Edinburgh College is happy to discuss the importance of the employer contribution and the promotion of hospitality and tourism as a first choice career for young people.
  • Ron McGilp, East Lothian Hospitality and Tourism Academy Coordinator, East Lothian Council.
  • Ronnie Summers, Head Teacher, Musselburgh Grammar, East Lothian
  • Academy students: Liam Reilly (Ross High, Tranent) and Shelby Dalgliesh (Preston Lodge High School, Prestonpans)
  • Patricia Rainey, Cluster Director of HR, Marriott Hotels, will be happy to comment from the employers/industry perspective.


For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, mob: 07711 011239, Email:



last modified 21/03/13 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU - Tel: +44 (0)131 474 0000
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