It’s a concerning time for Scotland’s hospitality, culinary and tourism sector, but ‘the new normal’ looks set to spark groundbreaking ideas and innovation

WHILE it is clear that the hospitality, tourism and culinary sector will be one of the hardest hit industries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the future is all about adapting to change and having new strategies in place to meet the expectations of customers in relation to service and interactions with people.

That is the view of Gordon McIntyre, Associate Dean of Hospitality and Tourism at City of Glasgow College, who is well known across the industry and last year won the HIT Scotland Industry award for his commitment to the sector – the first time such an award has been presented to an educator.

He admits it is a worrying time, however, the College is already considering what needs to change during the transition from lockdown and when things return to a new normal. Building strong partnerships with industry is key and City of Glasgow College is delivering on that by providing support during this crisis. 

For workers facing redundancy, the college is offering the chance to upskill and gain qualifications which they can add to any experience they already have. Funding is available for full time courses and there is time to complete those for when a fully reinvigorated hospitality industry is established. That means students could be better qualified when employers need them most.   

Mr McIntyre predicts the sector may look quite different when it is up and running again and those with better skills will be more likely to get a good job.

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“There were massive numbers of businesses out there and we are going to lose some but people are talking about reopening with better quality, so staff will be working at a more sophisticated level,” said Mr McIntyre.

MasterChef winner Gary Maclean, who is Executive Chef at the College and National Chef for Scotland, said the crisis could be seen as an opportunity for people to rethink their careers.

“Hospitality has been hit really hard and a lot of people are sitting at home wondering what to do, but I think there is an opportunity for people to reset.” he said. 

“They can come to college, retrain for the industry and it’s a new way of working. It almost provides a buffer until we come out the other end of this. There is a great opportunity here for the college to help people through this.”

May Donald, Associate Dean of Culinary Arts & Bakery at the College, pointed out that the staff there have all worked in the industry, so have many contacts that can open doors to students.

“Both our contacts, and the partners we work with through the College, can open a whole new world to students who come and study with us,” she said.
While admitting the industry has had “the stuffing knocked out of it”, she knows it will survive.

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“It is an awful situation right now. There have been several redundancies and people are questioning where their careers are going, but the industry will always be needed and it is an industry that knows how to regrow and it will be reborn in a different way,” said Mrs Donald.

Unlike commercial premises, the College has been built for training and will be able to adapt to cope with planned measures involving strict social distancing, and an enhanced blended learning approach with on-campus as well as online classes. Theoretical elements of courses will continue online with practical elements being delivered on campus.

The college was, in fact, able to adapt instantly to the lockdown as it had embraced virtual learning some time ago and was well prepared to continue teaching remotely.

Mrs Donald said staff had been introduced to new platforms over the last year and quickly adopted the move to online learning. “There has been learning for both staff and students and we have been challenged with ensuring our online provision met our students’ expectations and learning needs.  

“However, we were already well underway with our digital materials in response to the changing landscape of digital learning.”  

“The message to students was that the college was still very much open and all that had closed were the doors,” said Mr Maclean. 

“There has been significant and ongoing engagement with students in innovative ways. The college has reacted in an incredible way and the feedback we are getting from the students is great.”

Mr McIntyre said the College would continue to work with industry, the Scottish Government and awarding bodies to adapt to the current new reality.

“What we are doing at this stage of the crisis is pulling together and working in partnership,” he said. “The hospitality, tourism and culinary industry already collaborates well and we will continue to work together in the future.”

He added: “People in our industry really are creative and imaginative people who seek solutions, and that is very much something that we as a College do also. We don’t see barriers, we see round them, and that is what we will continue to do, both during the pandemic and on the way out of it.”

 

This article is brought to you in association with City of Glasgow College