26 days ago
Joanne Smith had worked for Sodexo for four years in a casual role, supporting on race days and functions at Ascot Racecourse.
Then, in January 2020, she became Operations Manager – and in doing so, began an apprenticeship with Sodexo, studying Level 5 Operational/Departmental Management. Of course, she couldn’t have predicted the year that would follow.
Joanne’s story takes us through the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry, but also the immense courage and opportunity found in transferring skills to new operations, and achieving through adversity.
"This year for me, like many others, has had many twists and turns, and really put my agile management skills to the test. From late January 2020, I had just started my new journey as Fine Dine & Boxes Operations Manager, and was starting to settle into the role and learn the business, along with getting to know the team. By March, I was furloughed.
"I took this time as an opportunity to focus on my apprenticeship and put my new free time to good use. I was soon redeployed and supporting the Sodexo HR team, working deploying staff to Covid-19 testing centres. This involved working from home and remotely in a HR role - none of which I’ve had experience in before. I quickly learned new approaches to time management, self-control and now, more than ever, how important communication was. These have always been of utmost importance to my roles in the past, but I had to approach them much differently in my redeployment journey.
There were points during the year in which I returned to Ascot Racecourse to focus on my substantive role. These times were short-lived due to changes in government guidelines and more lockdowns. But whilst on site it was immediately apparent what a new world we now live in, and how we as hospitality managers need to adapt to ensure we can protect a business, people’s jobs, and our reputation with our loyal guests and clients during unprecedented times. We relied on resilience and a positive can-do attitude."
Becoming an apprentice
"Whilst there were many challenging times I found completing the apprenticeship a great help, as I was learning new theories and ways of doing things, coupled with a great network of support around me to give me, with such wonderful advice and guidance.
"Initially it was very challenging. Before I took on the apprenticeship I had concerns that I didn’t have the time to do it, and my role then was so fast-paced with long hours that I couldn’t possibly find any free time within my working week to complete it. What really worked for me was that one of the first modules that I completed was time management. This really helped me to get that balance right. Once I had learned some quick wins and was managing my time effectively, it was challenging to a manageable level, and very rewarding. I believe that this was achieved by the support I had around me."
The Sodexo team
"My team at Sodexo really have supported me during my journey. From my line manager and HR helping to ensure that I had a structured week and time dedicated to my learning, to my colleagues who were always offering help and advice should it be needed. I also found that my tutor was an amazing support and very flexible to accommodate the needs of the business, and my needs as an apprentice. He helped to find which learning styles best suited me and that’s how we did things! It made the whole process more enjoyable than what some people could have seen as a chore. My tutor even helped to find me a mentor through the Institute of Hospitality.
"Joining the IoH and having a mentor was amazing. I learned a lot from them, and it created a safe space where I could talk about situations I had been in and how I’d dealt with them. It helped to provoke a lot of thought and challenged the way I would approach situations. I would recommend this to anyone!"
"The main skills that I have developed through my apprenticeship are the importance of emotional intelligence and how to apply that in the work place, how to successfully manage change within a team (which is as important now as it ever was) and how important continuous personal development is, and how easy it can be achieved.
"The single most valuable advice I received was around values! Know them, demonstrate them and let them be central to the way you manage your business and lead your team. They will be of paramount importance when the going gets tough, and will help to guide you through when tough decisions need to be made."
"My next step would be to get chartered. I feel that this would enhance my professional profile and lead to more opportunities in the future. I am planning on continuing my membership with the Institute of Hospitality, and by networking and joining in their webinars, I will continue to develop my industry knowledge. I will continue to ensure that I have an up-to-date and relevant development plan; this will aid me in ensuring that I am continuously learning and add some structure to it.
"Before completing my apprenticeship was very confident in my abilities as an Operations Manager, and felt that I had a very good level of knowledge and experience within my role. After completing the course it became apparent that no matter what level you are at or how much experience you believe you have, there is always something to learn.
"I now feel even more equipped and have many more tools and techniques to use within all aspects of my role."
Joanne’s story is a shining example of both the opportunities available to Sodexo colleagues, and the world of possibilities and achievements to be found behind an apprenticeship. And what an achievement she made! Joanne went on to achieve a Distinction in her apprenticeship’s end point assessment, earning unique praise from the assessor for the quality of her work.
Congratulations Joanne. We hope to hear about your applied knowledge back at Ascot Racecourse, and in the years to come.
If you want to achieve through an apprenticeship, enquire today through this short form. The central apprenticeship team will contact you and provide advice around a solution that works for you and your role.
With Sodexo apprenticeships, anything is possible.
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