Kieran Barnes: Holiday Inn Express Burnley and Sir John Thursby College

"The greatest reward is to your teams who grow with the experience and your customers who are proud to support your efforts."

Kieran Barnes, General Manger, Holiday Inn Express Barnley values the structure Business Class gives for working with students.

When you are part of a group, requests come in from all directions and so do candidates. With Business Class the objectives are set and the communication is across every level from school leadership to the hotel team.

- Kieran Barnes,
General Manager, Holiday Inn Express, Burnley

I joined hospitality as a teenager.  Although I had decided this was my chosen career it has taken many twists and turns over the years and it’s certainly not the job role I envisaged when I left school.  But it's been a great journey where I have had opportunities and commitment from my employers, which in turn I have been in the position to pass on. Doing the same, but better: employing, training and developing young teams and opening up opportunities for them.

In the past this has been achieved by just working with individual schools or colleges on individual projects or by default. The business leans heavily on employing young people - for large hotels I would need over 60 young people - 16 to 20 - at any one time.

In Burnley, although small, the hotel still relies on young people, and our talent pool is within the local schools and colleges. Through getting involved with Business Class in 2012, we give support and opportunities to the students through structured projects which can evolve and mature over a longer period of time, and can be tailored to the school's learning needs. 

In return we can communicate to students, their families, and other businesses, that we want to be the employer of choice. We do get applications from students and we have taken on two apprentices following the Hotel Burnley. It’s the impact this has had on the team in Burnley that we were winners of the Caterer and Hotel Keeper Employer of the year award in 2013.

Without Business Class, working with individual schools and colleges can be really difficult. It can be fragmented and not specific enough, and with hotels sometimes lacking HR and training resources it can even be counterproductive for students.

When you are part of a group requests come in from all directions and so do candidates. With Business Class the objectives are set and the communication is across every level from school leadership to the hotel team.

Young people are far more capable that sometimes teachers believe. Young people love to learn from their peer group - university graduates within the hotel team are great at inspiring younger students and can demonstrate great leadership qualities.  Planning the time lines with the schools is critical to the project success.

It’s well worth the effort. The greatest reward is to your teams, who grow with the experience, and your customers, who are proud to support your efforts. Recently we mentored students through Micro Tyco, with our customers supporting them with prizes which helped the students raise almost £2,000 from a £1 investment in just four weeks. Our team are proud that they are involved and their pride has benefited the business. (Read a case study about the Micro Tyco competition).

Apart from best employer, the hotel has been awarded the Best Large Hotel by Lancashire Tourism and was a finalist in the Burnley Business Awards.  The Hotel Burnley project formed part of the bid which saw Burnley achieve the Most Enterprising Town award 2013. All this focus and momentum  has increased business and profitability.