Jake Armston is an Associate member of the Institute of Hospitality having joined to help his studies with additional learning and development. Our Education Membership Scheme (EMS) has provided a lifeline to many students whilst learning from home. We spoke to Jake, to find out more about the additional work he’s doing to focus on his career and remain motivated during this crisis.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your hopes for your future career.
I’m currently a first-year hospitality with events management student, at University College Birmingham (UCB). I decided to return to university with the pandemic in full swing to keep moving forwards whilst everything is closed at the moment. Post-graduation, I hope to progress onto a graduate management scheme and become a head of department by 2028/2029.
What attracted you to a career in hospitality?
Initially, it was a job, then I went to university in Sheffield and it became an escape from my Engineering & Mathematics degree course. That shortly turned into a passion and my work colleagues became my family. Since leaving Sheffield, I have found another family; it sounds cliché but it is true. Hospitality really is my passion now.
How have you found being a hospitality student during the pandemic?
Difficult, I’d be lying if I said anything else. Not being able to do most of the practical tasks, have trips out and all the lectures being online, has certainly been a massive adjustment for me. Combine this with the ever-changing situation with tiers and lockdown makes it unstable and ultimately difficult. The university have provided great support though which has really helped.
How have you used the time to develop your own personal learning?
During the pandemic, I decided to leave my bar manager job with Roseacre Pub Co. and start university. I wanted to progress my theoretical hospitality knowledge, whilst the industry, in many cases, is relatively stagnant at present.
How else have you used your time effectively during the pandemic?
Through the first lockdown I was at work still one or two days a week but since being at university I have joined the Institute of Hospitality mentoring scheme as well as taking part in its webinars and weekly coffee and conversation with the aim of networking more within the industry.
What are current hospitality students going to have to do to make sure they stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs?
Everything possible. I believe one of the popular interview questions of the future will be “What did you do during the pandemic?” and simply sat in front of the TV, will just not cut it. There are plenty of opportunities out there to do something positive and I think people just need to reach out and grab them with both hands. The Institute of Hospitality has many materials to help with this and they just need to be used effectively by students who may not realise what opportunities are out there for them.
How can universities and the wider industry work together to maintain the hospitality stars of the future?
They already do in many cases, but I think it is imperative at times like this to ensure people graduate and don’t automatically leave the industry due to few prospects available. This is one of the reasons I am co-writing a blog section with Nicolae Ionut (Johnny) on Hospitality Talks with Libbie.
This aims to unite aspiring hospitality professionals, showcasing talent, sharing stories with the aim of sparking ideas for new, upcoming and existing stars of the future. I also think employers should look to seek out this new talent too, choosing them equally to those who have the experience in order to keep the next level of stars coming through the ranks.
As a student, what will you now be looking for from a future employer?
Ultimately a job. But for me personally, I will need to make sure the company is right for me too. I want my next step to be one where I can progress into head of department role within two to three years of graduation. This means I want to work for a company that will help mentor and shape me into the manager I know I can be. And be that star of the future.
How has being an IoH member helped you during the last 12 months?
The connections I have built up in the last year have helped me significantly. The industry professionals that I can now turn for a simple question via email or LinkedIn massively help me to answer further questions that in some cases the university cannot. Even down to reading HQ to find out what is going on in the wider industry. Personally, I am glad I joined and have dived in with both feet. The benefits just seem endless.
Which elements of the membership have you found most valuable and why?
I think the general networking with IoH is one of the biggest opportunities. I remember when I was re-graded to an Associate, within a few days I had about 20 new connection requests. If I ever need something quick, I now have people in every sector that I can turn to for some advice. Secondly, for me it’s the mentoring scheme. Alistair Sandall FIH paired me with a great mentor, Richard Lee FIH, to prepare me ahead of going for my first placement in September and I have got so much more out of it. At my first coffee and conversation, Richard made introductions to everyone. He has sent me some materials from the Hilton to help with my university work. Any questions I have, he is on the end of the phone and really this is a priceless resource.
If you are a student and interested in learning more about membership, please get in touch. Some hospitality students are able to access membership via our Education Membership Scheme (EMS). It offers the Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism (HLT) departments of universities and colleges, the opportunity to sponsor individual Institute membership for their students. One annual fee will secure membership for all current students.