Silver service at hospitality school

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:11 27/11/2012

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A private hospitality training school for those struggling in mainstream education has turned 25, but its manager says new funding rules may affect the quality of future courses.

The Nelson Training Centre in Hardy St opened up for lunchtime drinks and finger food on Friday to celebrate the milestone, with former students and staff served by current students.

Training manager David Agnew said it did not feel like 25 years, because every course was different because the people were different.

The school offers "second chance" education to those who have not succeeded in mainstream schooling, with students coming via the Youth Guarantee Scheme, the Training for Work Scheme, and the Straight to Work Scheme.

Most students had very little confidence when they first arrived at the course, but their self-esteem grew as they progressed through the course, he said.

"Nobody's a failure or stupid. We're giving them the opportunity to learn by doing and by practice and repetition.

"Once they tap into their own learning capacity they feel better about themselves."

The school opens to the public as a cafe on Thursdays, and hosts dinner for community groups on Friday.

A large number of hospitality staff around Nelson, working at cafes such as Yaza and the Suter Cafe, had studied at the training centre, he said.

"A couple of years ago I went into Hopgood's [Restaurant & Bar] and all of the staff that were on that night were ex-students. That's pretty amazing."

The emphasis was in getting the students into jobs, rather than earning academic qualifications, he said.

Last year, 77 per cent of students there under the Youth Guarantee Scheme had employment by the end of the course.

But from 2013 the Tertiary Education Commission is changing the way funding is delivered for the Youth Guarantee Scheme, moving from a per-learner system to one based on Equivalent Full-Time Student places.

Youth Guarantee students will now need to be enrolled in at least one qualification worth 60 credits, equivalent to about half an equivalent fulltime place.

To qualify for the same level of funding, the school will need to either increase the credits, and therefore hours, that each student studies for, or increase the number of students.

This meant the system was moving away from getting students into jobs, and into meeting performance targets, Mr Agnew said.

"At the end of the day it's about people's personal success."

In a compromise, he had decided to make his course worth the equivalent of 95 credits, but this was still pushing the limits of what was possible, he said.

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Students Gina Prestidge, 16, and Mackenzie Laurie, 18, have both landed on their feet at the course after leaving Nayland College early. Ms Laurie said she had struggled at school, often missing class because she was not interested, but had always had a desire to try hospitality.

"I'm a people person, I just like to deal with people."

One of the more useful skills they had developed was dealing with difficult customers: "Somebody who has no patience, who doesn't understand that we're a training centre, who doesn't care about how big the line."

She has landed a job at Petite Fleur restaurant, at Seifried Estate Winery. "I have loved doing this course, it's been so cool, I'm so sad it's the last day."

Ms Prestidge, who had enrolled to keep Ms Laurie company, was surprised to find that she enjoyed the course. "I like the whole talking to people part, I like that whole aspect of hospitality.

"It surprised me, I thought I was going to be really horrible at it and not enjoy it at all."

She is about to start a job trial at Yello Cafe.

- The Nelson Mail

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