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Michelin-starred Cottage in the Wood launches apprenticeship scheme to help Covid-hit young people into hospitality

20 August 2020 by

The owner of Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms Cottage in the Wood in the Lake District has said there is "opportunity in everything" as it launches an apprenticeship scheme for young people impacted by the pandemic.

Liam Berney, who has run the award-winning establishment with his wife Kath (pictured) for the last 18 years, told The Caterer that instead of just "tightening our belts", the pair decided to use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to bring in new talent.

The training scheme was launched in response to reports of how school and college leavers would be hit.

The Berneys posted a message on their website calling for applicants who were "passionate about looking after people and aspire to a career in our fantastic industry", offering "practical hands on training" along with attendance at college. They are welcoming applicants from all backgrounds.

Liam added: "Our mantra is ‘don't waste a good crisis'. There is an opportunity in everything and we're going through a scenario that was so tough to get talent into. We're not going to miss it. The support system is there in place."

He explained that the initiative is underpinned by the government's £2b Kickstart Scheme, but said that the business was prepared to fund the training should a potential candidate not qualify, adding: "We won't turn anyone away."

The couple, who are working in partnership with nearby Kendal College - known for its catering specialism and apprenticeship pathways, have both previously worked in higher education.

Liam said that successful applicants could specialise in any area of the business, including the kitchen under the guidance of esteemed chef director Ben Wilkinson or alongside restaurant director Monika Zurawska, as part of a tailored programme.

He said his experience of working in education for 25 years had given him a knack at spotting the potential in individuals who may otherwise slip through the formal education system.

"What we're really doing is looking at the person first – at the attitudes and skills of the individual. It might be someone who missed their way in secondary education.

"Jamie Oliver is a classic example – he is dyslexic but he has brilliant business skills. You spot something. You need to look into them deeply."

While they now have an applicant "pretty much confirmed and in the pipeline" they are open to further applications.

Interested candidates are invited to email info@thecottageinthewood.co.uk

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