Julia Sibley on looking to the future as the Savoy Educational Trust turns 60

19 March 2021 by
Julia Sibley on looking to the future as the Savoy Educational Trust turns 60

The chief executive of the Savoy Educational Trust (pictured left) talks to James Stagg about the institution's history and its future as it celebrates its 60th year with a £1m donation to Springboard to 2022.

The Savoy Educational Trust is 60 this year. How was the organisation established?

It was established in 1961 by four directors of what was then the Savoy Hotel Limited as an independent, grant-giving educational charity.

The main aim has always been to advance and develop education, training and qualifications within the hospitality industry. Until 1998 it ticked over with a dividend income from the Savoy Hotel Group and gave grants to individuals to further their career and to organisations such as the Scottish Hotel School at the University of Strathclyde and the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at the University of Surrey.

How does it generate the funding?

The Savoy Hotel Group was sold to [US investment firm] Blackstone in 1998 and the trust had to realise their shares. It received a considerable sum of money [reported to be £37m]. The prudent investment of these funds enabled a major strategic change and allowed the trust to award funding of over £1m a year – and the capital is still double what we were given.

We don't do any fundraising at all. If we're given any funds we pass them on to the likes of Hospitality Action and Springboard.

What kind of projects do you fund?

Our role is to provide funds to a wide array of projects. We're an enabler, working behind the scenes, helping many hospitality departments of further education colleges and universities to enrich the quality of their establishments, so that they can provide the vocational and technical skills that the industry needs.

For example, we've just given £100,000 to Bury College to create a state-of-the-art hospitality training environment. The principle there is supportive of hospitality, understands the importance to the local economy and has excellent local employer relationships.

We also give funds to higher education. An exciting one is coming up with the creation of a Centre for Food, Drink and Culture at Ulster University. That's going to be an incredible facility, with a culinary school and a beverage school. We've given them a grant to help make sure the students have an outstanding learning experience.

We've also developed scholarships, and have just given the University of Surrey £40,000 for scholarships in its masters in strategic hotel management. What we really liked in its application was the objective of retaining leadership talent in the industry.

The trust works hard to advance training and qualifications in hospitality – is the cause taken seriously enough by government? Are you effectively filling budgetary holes?

Overall further education has been underfunded for the past nine years and hospitality in particular is an expensive curriculum to run. We've discovered that the projects that really work have a very supportive principal or vice-chancellor, as they understand it and realise that they must make sure the student is using the industry-related equipment. It means that when they go out to work, they're ready.

In the Skills for Jobs white paper that came out recently, it was pleasing to see talk of the importance of locality, partnerships and investing in colleges. Ministers are now really recognising the role that further education can play in the community.


Are operators engaging enough with local colleges? Should the hospitality industry be more proactive?

Absolutely. That's why initiatives like the Hospitality Charter are so important in terms of encouraging engagement.

We also beat the drum to push our St Julian Scholars to work with local education. We ask them to get involved with local schools and colleges and some are fantastic at this. When they could, they were out all the time, taking their chefs and managers into schools and colleges.

What does the future look like for the trust?

Our history and tradition are phenomenal strengths for the trust, but we're moving into our 60th year, so we want to promote a forward-looking image, energy and ethos. It's going to be an exciting year and we're going to continue with our normal funding, but we're also working with Springboard on a brilliant initiative.

The Savoy Education Trust has just donated £1m to the Springboard to 2022 campaign, which aims to train 10,000 young people for work by December 2022. What inspired the trust's largest-ever single donation?

The young in particular have been badly affected by the pandemic and they need a clear pathway to a good career. We know the industry has a low barrier to entry and there are amazing prospects. Also, hospitality is in every region of the UK and it will have a huge part to play in rebuilding communities and the economy. So we're very excited to be a major partner in the Springboard to 2022 campaign.

The young in particular have been badly affected by the pandemic and they need a clear pathway to a good career

It is an exciting campaign that ties in very well with the priorities set out in the Skills for Jobs white paper: creating pathways into employment, securing the future of the industry and boosting economic regeneration. It also sits well with our 60th year.

Why is this support so important now?

Nobody knows the full social and societal cost of the pandemic so it's really important right now to offer positive support for the rebuild.

We all have a job to encourage the young – who will all be damaged by [the pandemic]. We have a concern for the industry and the young and this project really hits the mark.

Springboard is already a gateway employer for the Kickstart scheme and my hope is that the industry really gets behind this initiative.

The industry will have lost many through the pandemic and Brexit too, so there will be a large labour hole to fill…

Because of Brexit we'll have to look to home-grown talent even more. So there is going to be a lot of rebuilding. There will initially be a reshaping of service and menus.

The older population in particular, who haven't been into a restaurant or hotel for a year, will want a warm welcome and gentle return; hospitality has a huge role to play in building everybody's confidence. We need to get the confidence back that it's OK to go back out again.

The Savoy Educational Trust's recent work

In the financial year to 31 March 2020, the trust awarded over £1.2m in grants to hospitality-related projects. They included:

  • £368,000 to further education-based projects (college kitchen and restaurant refurbishments, young chef, baker, waiter academies, bursaries, and work placements and educational trips).
  • £92,000 to Hospitality Action (£42,000 towards an educational seminar programme for hospitality and catering students on the dangers of abusing alcohol and £50,000 towards its Covid-19 Emergency Appeal).
  • £61,000 to Springboard for its Future Chef programme.
  • £48,000 to Royal Academy of Culinary Art's Adopt a School programme.
  • £30,000 to HIT Scotland to fund hospitality scholarships.

Springboard's aim to train 10,000 in hospitality skills

Springboard's latest project ‘Springboard to 2022 – Futureproofing Hospitality's Talent Pipeline' aims to train 10,000 young people to work in hospitality and have them ready for employment by December 2022.

The project includes promoting the industry to young people, assessing their training needs and getting them into work in the hospitality industry. Some 1,000 trainees will be supported through a Savoy Educational Trust programme as a result of its funding.

Springboard chief executive Chris Gamm says: "The whole project will cost us £5m over two years, so this funding has really kicked off the programme.

"We'll be working closely with the industry to make sure there are jobs at the end to get these young people into. At the moment we're just looking for the industry to commit jobs. Everyone is in recovery mode right now, but they will need people as growth returns.

"Operators know they must engage younger people – they're the future of the industry, and we're providing the means for that engagement."

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