The Savoy Educational Trust is a charitable body that gives grants to people and organisations in the hospitality industry for education and training. Mark Lewis speaks to chief executive Julia Sibley, who is busy spreading the word, as many people who could be eligible for grants are still unfamiliar with the trust's work.
When Julia Sibley took the 2009 Education and Training Catey award for her work with the Savoy Educational Trust (SET), the grant-giving, charitable body she heads up, many guests in the Great Room of the Grosvenor House would have been left wondering exactly what her trust does.
Its trustees are aware that there are many people who are unfamiliar with the work of the trust, a fact that's neatly summed up by two of the frequently-asked questions on its website. The first of these is: "What is the Savoy Educational Trust?" and the second is: "Are you part of the Savoy hotel?"
Almost 50 years since it was founded by four directors of the Savoy Hotel Ltd with an endowment of their company's shares, the trust continues to award grants and bursaries to educational establishments, associations, charitable organisations and individuals around the hospitality industry.
Yet, as chief executive Sibley explains, research carried out at the back of 2008 revealed that not everybody that could know about the trust did know about it.
"We are trying to spread the word", she says. "Too many people still say ‘gosh, I didn't know you did that.'"
Like cash down the back of a sofa, SET funds are waiting for anyone who bothers to reach out and grab them. We're not talking loose change, here: currently, the trust donates some £680,000 annually on advancing and developing education, training and qualifications within the hospitality industry. The ambition now is to award more money to more worthy causes in future.
Sibley has the perfect credentials for her role at the trust. After starting out in the Savoy Hotel's personnel department, she rose to become the training officer of the Savoy Group before leaving to pursue a career in training consultancy. Having set up a school of tourism in Gibraltar, she has been at the sharp end of hospitality training.
An SET trustee until the trust sold its Savoy shares to Blackstone in l998, Sibley became chief executive immediately after the sale, which banked the trust assets of £37.5m.
"We became one of the big boys", she remembers. "We had to alter the structure and bring in investment managers."
Though she has been involved in the trust for more than half of its life, Sibley has lost none of her passion for skills training, though she shares the concern of many around the industry, that operators and academia remain too disconnected from one another.
"I feel very sorry for colleges; they have had so many changes to contend with recently; new qualifications; a new qualifications framework and new funding challenges. As the funding issues become more and more serious, it is even more important that colleges and employers eat off the same plate.
"I'd like to get colleges more trusted by employers. There are some great pockets of good practice where colleges really listen to local employers and deliver courses that they want. I'd love it if they all worked together. Colleges and universities must really interact with employers and understand the local labour market."
"Too many young people don't have the basic employability skills", Sibley adds. "We have a huge skills mountain to climb and we need to get more home-grown talent into the industry."
IN ON THE SECRET
Funding can help this process, and that's where the trust comes in.
"The more colleges take advantage of our opportunities, the better. And we need to make sure the right colleges do apply", she says. "It's not just about London."
Some colleges are in on the secret. "Blackpool & Fylde have applied successfully for a number of years. Last year we awarded them £38,500 for kit and uniforms for incoming kids, exam costs, overseas exchanges, and participation in exhibitions and salons."
Meanwhile, the Worshipful Company of Innholders receives £55,000 annually from the trust, which funds scholarships enabling middle managers to undertake intensive courses at Cranfield University, Cornell University or the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne.
But for every organisation wise to the trust's largesse, there are many more that are blissfully unaware of the scope of the opportunity it represents.
Sibley says: "The trustees consider a wide range of applications each year for grants and bursaries - there are no restrictions to applying, as long as the application fits the criteria and the remit of the trust. Projects that are innovative and will benefit a large number of both present and future beneficiaries are of particular interest as we aim to support long term gain for future generations and the future of individuals themselves."
The trust is constantly searching for new opportunities to support the advancement and development of education, training and qualifications within the hospitality industry. The deadline for applications for the next round of grants and bursaries is 5 May 2010.
For more details of how to apply go to www.savoyeducationaltrust.org.uk
GRANTS AWARDED BY THE SAVOY EDUCATIONAL TRUST THIS FINANCIAL YEAR
Academy of Food and Wine
£6,800 to fund a one-week course at L'Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne for the runner-up of the UK Restaurant Manager of the Year award.
â- Cambridge Regional College £16,363 to help purchase cameras and plasma screens for three of the college kitchens in order to enhance the learning experience and help the department become a venue for regional and national competitions.
â- Fifteen Foundation
£18,500 to help fund sourcing trips for a new group of trainees to visit various regional UK food producers and suppliers.
â- HIT Scotland
£25,000 to help provide bursaries and scholarships to individual hospitality industry students in Scotland.
â- New College, Nottingham
£50,000 to help develop a specialised skills kitchen at the college, which is both state of the art and environmentally friendly (see case study).
â- Springboard £35,000 to help redevelop the FutureChef competition by matching mentor chefs to participants at the school heat stage rather than the local final stage with a programme of work experience and skills development.
â- Stockport College
£4,020 to help fund an educational trip to Spain for 30 students in the Hospitality and Catering Department, in March 2010.
â- William Hulme's Grammar School, Manchester £15,000 towards the cost of developing a fit for purpose food technology suite, enabling pupils to prepare and cook food.
CASE STUDY: NEW COLLEGE, NOTTINGHAM
Last year, the Savoy Educational Trust awarded New College Nottingham a grant of £50,000 towards the cost of developing a specialised skills kitchen boasting individual multi-purpose workstations, enabling students to work in an energy-efficient, industry-standard environment.
The kitchen ticked all the right boxes, says Sibley. "The trustees knew that the new facility would benefit not just current students but also future generations. One of the key elements of the project that stood out was the environmental aspect as the trustees are keen to support and encourage energy-efficient projects."
Sacha McCarthy, New College's head of school for food, hospitality, leisure & tourism, says: "We moved away from turning a switch on in the morning, with the equipment firing up and being on throughout the day, to an environment that provides better working conditions for the students, and a long term energy efficiency gain for the college. Now there are individual stations for up to 14 students, each with its own fridge and oven with a shared grill, rather than a central station as was installed previously."
THE INSTITUTE OF HOSPITALITY AND THE CATEYS
Last year, her work with the Savoy Educational Trust won Julia Sibley the Education and Training Catey Award, sponsored by the Institute of Hospitality. Here chief executive Philippe Rossiter explains the Institute's support of the Cateys
We are being bombarded constantly by the conflicting opinions of experts about the future direction of the post-recession world. Talk of W, L, U and V recovery models does little to clarify matters, and is often confusing to managers in the industry who are simply looking for guidance upon which to base their business strategy.
However, whichever position one adopts in relation to the current economic woes facing the country, and to the likely pace of recovery, there is no doubt that business conditions are far from easy at the moment. Furthermore, the looming spectre of increases in business taxation, both direct and indirect, as well as the almost certain rise in raw material costs, including energy, will do little to provide solace to a hard-pressed industry.
Yet, of all the challenges facing the hospitality industry in the future, the availability of competent, dedicated and skilled people will remain by far the greatest. This should not, of course, come as any surprise, for no matter how attractive a venue, it is the quality of service that guests will remember most, and which will be the determining factor in whether or not a business is successful.
People 1st has predicted that by 2017 more than 200,000 new jobs will be created in the hospitality sector. Developing and maintaining a skilled and capable workforce must therefore remain the number one priority if the industry is to enjoy the benefits of these exciting growth predictions.
It is for this reason that, as the industry's professional body, the Institute of Hospitality champions the powerful contribution to business success which stems from nurturing talent and professionalism. It also explains why the Institute is delighted to support the Catey Education and Training Award, which highlights best practice and provides excellent examples of commitment to talent development for the industry.
GETTING BEHIND THE WHEEL FOR A MASTER INNHOLDER SCHOLARSHIP
The Savoy Educational Trust's support of the Worshipful Company of Innholders' scholarship programme enabled the general manager at the Swindon Marriott, Joanne Taylor-Stagg, to spend 10 days on the General Managers programme at Cornell University. In a speech to the General Managers' Conference in January, she recounted her experience in creative fashion:
"I'd like to tell you the story of a hand-crafted motor vehicle. This car had all the state of the art gadgets that were installed in cars 15 years ago. It had a couple of international owners before it was taken on by a careful owner called Mr Marriott, who spent lots of time keeping it in good working order. But he never really opened up the throttle and raced through the gears to test the car's true potential. Over the years both the car and the owner became comfortable with one another and cruised along in a well-oiled routine.
"One day, the car came across a wise mechanic who saw that it still had the capacity to drive fast and compete in top flight racing. The mechanic told the car about a garage in America called Cornell that specialised in fine tuning cars.
"At Cornell, the mechanics amended the car's tracking to create and sustain a competitive advantage; the car could now get into first place and stay there. Its aerodynamic centring helped it learn all about leadership and how to make ethical decisions during a race. To ensure the car stayed ahead of the pack, innovation and how to access research was learned in order to keep giving it the edge.
"The car had a brand new GPS fitted, which not only told it what to expect during a race but also what the terrain and traffic were like. The car could now anticipate obstacles and most importantly it provided the foresight to change course and direction towards a new dynamic route that could keep pace with changing conditions. This changed the car's outlook. It made the car truly appreciate all it had been built to achieve and how it could get out front and maintain the lead."