Capital careers

29 September 2005
Capital careers

In case you hadn't heard, there's a skills shortage out there, which puts jobseekers like you in an excellent position. As the capital's employers vie to improve their employment packages, those of you with drive and talent will have the pick of the best.

Emma Corlett, Acorn winner and director of human resources at the Four Seasons Hotel London, explains: "At Four Seasons we keep our focus on motivation and retention. We are also fortunate to be part of a large company where London is a destination of choice for employees wanting to transfer from around the globe."

James Goulding, assistant human resources manager at the Dorchester hotel, agrees there are lots of opportunities for skilled staff in the capital, particularly for hotel workers from receptionist level upwards.

Committed chefs are also in demand, although the shortage has been addressed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's work as a role model - and, of course, the fact that it is now easier to get work permits for non-EU nationals.

So have July's terrorist attacks put people off moving to London? "Applications have gone down from 50 a day to 20 a day," concedes Goulding, "but that happens for many reasons. I sense that most people are wise enough not to let the bombs affect their choice."

That chimes with Caterer's findings (see case studies) and is supported by Corlett: "We have not found that the job market has been any different since the bombings. I think people now accept that terrorism is a sad and unfortunate fact of life if you live in a large city."

Ian Johnson, managing director at Global Visas (UK), confirms that applications for working visas from abroad are particularly strong at the moment and that the bombs have had no influence at all.

That's probably because the opportunities to build a sparkling career in the capital outweigh the possible threat of terrorism, which many people recognise could happen almost anywhere in the world today.

The move to a fast-paced world city is always going to be initially daunting, however. Goulding, who relocated to London himself, reckons newcomers need resilience to cope with the different work culture. "It's more professional, standards are higher and it's a bigger market - one of the biggest hotel markets in the world," he says.

Corlett adds that people need to be flexible and adaptable and should come to London with an open mind. "They also need to be realistic about lifestyle. I feel it is the responsibility of employers to convey this message meaningfully so that people arrive well informed."

For instance, at companies such as Four Seasons there is a policy whereby the HR team talks to recruits about the transition before they arrive. When they start they are assigned a "buddy" to help with problems and answer all those burning questions.

One big worry for many of you, of course, is the rumoured expense of living in the capital on a hospitality wage.

"The cost of living in London is no great secret," says Goulding. "But salaries as an industry standard aren't bad in the capital - they've caught up a lot in the past five years."

The other good news is that towards the top end of the ladder you will be earning as much as in any other industry.
"But you have to start at the bottom. There is no quick way," reminds Goulding.

In any case, how can you put a price on the experience of a lifetime? "London has so much to offer as an overall experience it would benefit anyone's career immensely," says Corlett. "Our city is rich in history, culture and diversity as well as the many wonderful hospitality employers to choose from. It is fast-paced and demanding and - like they say of New York - if you can make it here, then you can make it anywhere."

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Stop press: top training

Here's a chance to send your career into orbit with Maybourne Hotel Group, the new super-luxury hotel company launched at the beginning of 2005.

The group, which now operates the famous Berkeley, Claridge's and Connaught hotels, has recently stepped up its programme to develop world-class industry professionals.

"We've got three prestigious hotels and a corporate office situated in the heart of London, which means we are able to provide exciting opportunities for career development, including transfers and promotions within the group," explains human resources executive Aliya Hawa.

"In addition to our induction programme and skills training, our off-job programmes include IT training, customer service and management skills development," she adds.

Each hotel also employs a full-time learning and development manager to help staff achieve their potential.


Think outside the box

London is full of entrepreneurial businesses, so there's no excuse to follow the herd. If you are a chef, what about working for a bespoke home-delivery caterer?

Pure Package in Covent Garden provides what founder Jenny Irvine calls "posh meals on wheels for people who are cash-rich and time-poor". Her clients include the British Olympic team, bankers and celebrities such as Ruby Wax and Patsy Kensit.

Irvine, who was named the 2005 Shell Live Wire London Young Entrepreneur of the Year, has built up a team of 12 chefs, dietitians and nutritionists since setting up alone 18 months ago and is on target to double in size year-on-year. The team already delivers meals to nearly 100 clients a day.

Irvine looks for three qualities in candidates. You must: love food; be interested in nutrition; and want to be part of a fun team.
"This job provides respectable hours for chefs," says Irvine. "It's 8am-5pm and you never have to do nights."


New opening

Brown's hotel in Albermarle Street, W1, which first opened in 1837, will be relaunched at the beginning of December, following a £19m refurbishment. There will be 117 luxury bedrooms, a restaurant, bar, tea lounge, six private rooms, gym and treatment rooms.

In preparation, the HR department is on a recruitment drive. Top priority is finding a head sommelier, guest relations manager, assistant afternoon tea manager and bar lounge manager. But there are further opportunities in the kitchen, restaurant, housekeeping, front office and spa departments.

"We are looking for self-starters. People who are hands-on with real personalities. People with passion and a genuine warmth," says general manager Stuart Johnson.

If you are ambitious, it sounds like a good move. Brown's is part of Rocco Forte Hotels, which comprises 11 hotels spanning Rome to St Petersburg, with a further four in the pipeline in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and Sicily. Career development and movement within hotels is encouraged, adds Johnson.

Contact: 020 7493 6020

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