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Kulsum Hussin is a fixer. She identifies problem areas and finds a solution. She was born to a family of Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant owners, but has lived in the UK most of her life. As such, she was ideally placed to recognise the enormity of the Indian/Bangladeshi dining out industry. The sector has grown from around 600 restaurants in 1960 to 9,500 in 2015/16, with an annual turnover of £3b.
So she was also able to spot a significant shortage of well-trained chefs and front of house staff. Tighter immigration controls meant recruitment from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan was no longer an option, and traditional college training did not cover the specific skills required by the sector.
That's where Hussin's company, Welcome Skills, comes in. She established it in 2003 and since then she has worked tirelessly to tackle the problem of staff shortages by facilitating the training of young people in the workplace while supporting them to achieve qualifications through recognised apprenticeships.
Our judges appreciated Hussin's vision of offering young people the highest- quality learning experience, highlighting the difference she has made to the lives of so many that have been fortunate enough to be beneficiaries.And by creating meaningful employment opportunities, she helps steer them away potentially less desirable activities.
Her achievements have been noted by other restaurant sectors and the same strategy has been applied by Welcome Skills for Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and a variety of European/ British restaurants with equal success.
Hussin takes a personal interest in all of her learners and receives regular feedback on their progress. Where issues arise, she or a member of her team ensures intervention is swift before a small problem can escalate. And it's not just the apprentices that undergo training. Workshops are conducted for direct line managers and mentors to help them realise the vital role they play in ensuring successful outcomes.
The strategy has certainly paid off. The apprentice success rate is 95%, which is exceptional and significantly higher than national benchmarks, which are nearer to 60%. And when it is considered that 6,000 successful apprenticeships have already been completed through Welcome Skills with another 900 in progress, it is no wonder that our judges were impressed.
Hussin was on the shortlist for this award in 2016 and her ongoing commitment to innovative education and training meant that there was no doubt that she would take home the accolade sooner rather than later.
What the judges said
"Kulsum is inspirational - I would like to meet her! So many people have been trained and there are so many more to come."
"To drive such an initiative is incredible. This is someone with real vision who has made a positive impact on the industry. What an amazing woman. Truly inspiring."
"Kulsum is an outstanding role model. She is respected by many UK colleges, which she has supported in achieving their targets. She is a most entrepreneurial and inspiring woman."
Andrew Boer, The Edge Hotel School, Colchester, Essex
Hilary Cooke, Merlin Consultancy
Kulsum Hussin, Welcome Skills
David Russell, The Russell Partnership
Beth Aarons, The Dorchester Collection
Geoff Booth, Professional Association for Catering Education
David Cochrane, HIT Scotland
John Cousins, The Food and Beverage Training Company
Alberto Crisci, The Clink prison restaurants and charity
Peter Ducker, Institute of Hospitality
David Foskett, University of West London
Willie McCurrach, School for food, hospitality and tourism, City of
David McKown, University of Sheffield
Julia Sibley, Savoy Educational Trust
Sara Jayne Stanes, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts