Innovation that Counts

Innovation is often borne from opportunity – and in the United Kingdom, such an occasion led Delaware North’s team to create a new training program. On April 1, the UK government will implement a new national qualification framework to revolutionize the country’s approach to skills development. The new standards define the required knowledge, skills, and behaviors required by employees to be fully competent in their roles. To help its associates succeed, Delaware North has launched NEXT Academy, which will focus on culinary and management skills.

“NEXT Academy will support and underpin all future nationally-recognized qualification learning,” said Allison Gray, Delaware North’s director of human resources in the UK. “What’s great is that the new standards give businesses the flexibility and control to choose how best to train their ‘apprentices,’ use programs of their choice – or do a mixture of both,”said Gray of the rationale behind NEXT Academy. “Employees will prove they have met the standards through an independent end assessment, meaning outcomes across the board will be more consistent.”

According to Gray, Delaware North will benefit from the new standards many ways. First, it creates an effective way to develop skilled and committed staff -- 80 percent of companies that invest in these initiatives report an increase in staff retention. Moreover, associates trained through the program deliver an annual average of 10,000 British pounds (about $12,168) in productivity gains. And more than three quarters of employers believe apprenticeships make them more competitive.

“We believe that the clear progression pathways that the new framework allows us to offer will not only enable our people to excel in their role, but also take on new and exciting challenges and progress into future management and leadership positions,” said Gray.

In preparation for the formal launch of NEXT Academy, Delaware North’s UK team has been running a pilot program. As part of the pilot, two UK chefs – Charlie Parry and Shannon Lee-Horner – that are currently in training for their certification program were tasked with preparing a meal for Christian De Vos, Delaware North’s vice president of culinary and food & beverage development. On Feb. 13, De Vos visited the two at Wembley Stadium.

“The pressure was really on [Parry and Lee-Horner] as they were both being assessed on the day as part of their certification program,” Gray said. “We are pleased to confirm that they excelled! It was a great opportunity for us to show Christian what we are doing in the culinary work stream. This is our opportunity to really lead the way in terms of skills development.”