South Devon College launches new hospitality apprenticeship programme

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South Devon College has recently launched its new hospitality higher apprenticeship programme, in response to £120m investment in Torbay from the Fragrance Group, which will see hotel chains Mercure, Ibis and Hilton open in the bay over the next two years.

To find out more about the unprecedented employment opportunities this development will bring to Torbay, South Devon College hosted a Q&A session with representatives from Accor, Hilton and the Fragrance Group. The event was led by Lynn Stephens, Head of Curriculum for Leisure and Hospitality at South Devon College and newly appointed Chair Person for the English Riviera Destination Management Plan.

Martin Rogers, Managing Director at GH&L Consultancy, speaking on behalf of Fragrance Group, kicked off the discussion with an update on the developments under construction:

“The Fragrance Group have just under 1000 bedrooms under construction or in planning. Over 670 of those are in Torbay. In Paignton we have Mercure on Paignton Seafront, with 165 bedrooms. The construction is well under way and it’s due to be open in autumn 2021. Next door to that will be an Ibis Styles, 115 bedrooms also due in autumn next year.

Looking further ahead, in Torquay the Corbyn Head Hotel site will become a 150 bedroom, 4 star hotel. The anticipated open date is spring 2022. At Babbacombe, we have planning consent for a 240 bedroom 4 or 5 star hotel and resort. The anticipated completion date for that is 2022 late autumn or 2023 spring. The total investment will be £120 million including a residential aspect.”

Speaking at this event, Kayleigh Ryan, Talent Acquisition Director for Northern Europe with Accor, said:

“If we focus on the two hotels under construction, the Mercure and the Ibis Styles, we’re looking at around 150 job opportunities across reservations, reception, facilities, maintenance and food and beverage. Then you have more senior opportunities in management or at supervisor levels. We have a couple of unique factors, the main one being Ibis Styles which will have a spa facility, presenting some additional job opportunities.”

When asked about the opportunities for progression within hospitality, Kayleigh added:

“The opportunities for progression and growth are more extensive than people realise. Within Accor we are present in 110 countries. You may start in Torquay but you could go on to Australia, America or Canada – we also have a huge presence in Europe. Whatever appeals to you there is a brand, a hotel and a job opportunity.”

South Devon College’s apprenticeship standards are designed in partnership with the requirements of local employers and allow students of any age to earn while they learn. There is also a clear route for school leavers or those wishing to retrain, with entry-level full-time courses at South Devon College over two or three years, and the opportunity to then progress onto a higher apprenticeship at University Centre South Devon.

Speaking about the recently launched higher apprenticeship programme, developed in partnership with the Hilton Group, Rachel Jackson, Lecturer at University Centre South Devon, part of South Devon College, said:

“If you are employed or seeking employment in a supervisory or management role hospitality you can join us on our new higher apprenticeship hospitality manager apprenticeship for one day a week over 18 months. You’ll learn talent management and leadership, how to develop a people strategy, employment legislation, marketing strategies – these are all skills that will allow you to pursue a career in management in the industry.”

Peter Hales, Managing Director, Managed Hotels at Michels and Taylor, the management company for Hilton Hotels, highlighted the importance of training during in the current environment:

“Whilst it’s important at any time, now, it’s more important than ever to differentiate from other applicants. Education gives you the structure and the foundation for your career and it’s really important to have that when you start off and then you build from there.

People see hospitality as serving tea and coffee and making beds. These are multi-million pound businesses and they have human resources, finance, operations. You can come into the industry and any level and build a successful career.”

To watch the full employer Q&A, visit the College website.

For more information on the Hospitality Manager Apprenticeship and FdSc in Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management, visit

If you have yet to begin your education journey in Hospitality, discover South Devon College’s Level 2 and above options to get you started and on your way to a great future.