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JULY 6TH 2018

Introducing Charlene - Our Hospitality Ambassador

Hospitality, Off to Work, brexit, interview, event profs, future, Change

We caught up with Charlene, one of our inspiring Off to Work Team Members who is calling for change in the hospitality industry for young people.

With the hospitality and catering industry facing a huge loss of workers due to the effects of Brexit, businesses are now facing some of their biggest challenges and pressures to attract, engage and retain talent.

Charlene Mckenzie, who is a hospitality undergraduate at Cardiff Metropolitan University and one of our Off to Workers, recently wrote an open letter to the industry and its leaders inviting them to attend her university's roundtable conference at the H&C EXPO 2018. The conference will be an opportunity for attendees to discuss important industry issues with young people and students from across the UK who are embarking on careers in hospitality and catering.

We caught up with Charlene to talk about the EXPO, her experiences with Off to Work and future ambitions.


1. What encouraged you to write such an inspiring open letter to the industry about the effects of Brexit and your concerns for young people in hospitality?

It was all down to a pinch of curiosity, cheek and luck really. I’m currently in university at Cardiff Metropolitan where myself and students on my course were invited to meet one of the organisers of the H&C EXPO, to see if we were interested in working at the event. I thought it was interesting but wanted to do more so I got involved. As the EXPO is the first of its type to allow students to attend, it got me thinking why not give them a platform where they can share their opinions and concerns they're facing within the industry, and being able to speak them freely to leading industry experts who, in turn, can talk about their concerns.

My thoughts on Brexit have developed further since participating in a debate for one of my uni modules where we talked about its impact on the hospitality industry. It highlighted some serious issues that Brexit will bring such as a substantial loss of workers - migrants in particular, as well as a skills shortage. 

The discussion also revealed how the hospitality industry isn't seen as a long-term career choice for UK nationals, with many choosing hospitality jobs as a stop gap only.

I'm concerned that my generation will perceive it to be a long and unsociable role with limited prospects. Perhaps they may only try one or two roles within the industry and find it unsuitable and then give up on it, rather than think of the many various roles there are and discover how it is an appealing and lively industry to be part of, with real opportunities to develop themselves professionally.


2. Tell us more about the upcoming debate at the Hospitality and Catering Expo, what do you hope will be achieved?

I am very excited about the upcoming debate at the H&C EXPO, it is a brilliant opportunity for students to be able to raise concerns and issues they are feeling about the industry and to hear the perspectives from the experts. The panel will include leaders from across the industry, including a live audience which again will be both students and industry professionals. This is a two-way process for both highlighting areas of concern and shedding light on how things are currently being done.

It won't change the industry overnight but will help to start the path for making small changes that could eventually make a big difference.


3. Tell us about your experiences with Off to Work. Do you have any stand-out shifts?

I have experienced various shifts with OTW across Cardiff and further afield and love how each shift is always different to the last. My stand-out shifts are definitely working the stadium events as you really pick up on the excitement of the day plus the roles you work are usually pretty cool. My favourite stadium shift was the Anthony Joshua boxing match, the stadium was electric and I worked in a Hospitality Box that had an amazing view for my clients who were really sweet!


4. Do you have any favourite Off to Work clients to work for?

My favourite clients to work for are Spiros and the Principality Stadium as both offer something different when on shift, the atmosphere is always good and they always look after their employees, I’ve not had a bad shift with either of them.


5. Is it easy to balance your university studies with work? Does working in hospitality allow you that freedom?

Juggling university commitments and having to work on top can be a struggle at times but you need to do both, so working a flexible job like OTW makes it so much easier to balance. Being able to pick up shifts as and when it suits is so beneficial as some weeks my workload is higher than others and vice versa. I think hospitality allows you to have a good work-life balance as there is flexibility within most roles. If anything, being a student and working high profile events is a huge opportunity and a good way to meet people, plus giving you something to do on your weeknight!  


6. And finally, what are your ambitions post-university?

Post university I am slightly undecided about what I want to get stuck into but I have a few options in mind. The plan is to find a role that suits my high-energy nature and where I can progress professionally. I’m thinking of either going straight into full-time employment within the hospitality industry, applying for a Graduate Scheme or completing a Masters in Project Management, at this point now a year is a long way away.


The H&C EXPO is a fantastic opportunity for students who want a chance of being involved in the first event of it’s kind - where the student voice will be listened to and valued about issues they are facing within the industry. It's also a great networking opportunity with top industry leaders.

The EXPO runs from the 17th-18th July. 


Register here!


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