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Experience Oxfordshire partners with Activate Learning to connect hospitality talent to potential employers

Experience Oxfordshire

Experience Oxfordshire collaborates with Activate Learning to address staffing challenges in hospitality by showcasing new talent through a luncheon hosted by first-year culinary students, enhancing recruitment efforts.

A recent survey of businesses carried out by Experience Oxfordshire, the county’s destination management organisation and official LVEP highlighted the ongoing difficulty businesses operating within the visitor economy face in recruiting suitably qualified staff.

To help bridge that gap, Experience Oxfordshire partnered this week with its Ambassador Partner, Activate Learning, to offer hospitality businesses the opportunity to enjoy a lunch at the learning provider’s state-of-the-art hospitality school in Oxford.

Representatives from Oxfordshire’s top hotels and hospitality businesses sat down to a high-quality lunch fully curated, hosted, prepared and delivered, in terms of chefs and staffing, by Level 1 first year learners at the college, and it proved a great opportunity to showcase their skills and talent.

Explaining the context for the event, Experience Oxfordshire’s CEO, Hayley Beer-Gamage said: “The visitor economy in Oxfordshire is currently worth £2.17 billion and supports some 37 thousand jobs. We know there is the capacity for growth; but for the sector to thrive we need to ensure we have a pipeline of competent and engaged talent.

“As sectors, hospitality, leisure and tourism provide a fantastic range of employment opportunities wherever people are in their career path. Early years spent in hospitality, for example, provide an individual with skills which will prove relevant throughout their working lives. Today’s lunch is the first, in what we intend, will be a series of events to support Activate Learning and the broader visitor economy to strengthen our available workforce and raise the profile of the sector as an employer.”

In response to ongoing staff recruitment issues within the hospitality and leisure sectors, Experience Oxfordshire offer a free facility for their partners to advertise vacancies on


Gary Headland, Group Chief Executive at Activate Learning, who spoke at the lunch said: “Our core Learning Philosophy is built on developing our learners’ emotional intelligence and sense of purpose. To meet the specific demands of the workplace we build on this base, working with employers in various ways to address the technical skills and training needs.  Together, we’ll showcase the services we offer to support the visitor economy, while also connecting our learners with potential future employers.

Activate Learning has two colleges in Oxfordshire, City of Oxford College and University Centre, and Banbury and Bicester College. They offer the local community a variety of technical, vocational and academic education and training opportunities ranging from entry level, full-time academic and vocational study programmes, apprenticeships, leisure courses and university-level qualifications.

Attending the lunch Georgia Ireson, Cluster HR Manager at voco Oxford Spires and voco Oxford Thames hotels and an alumnus of City of Oxford College and University Centre commented: “We know how difficult it has been in recent years to attract and retain staff within the hospitality sector nationally. As an Oxfordshire employer I’m delighted to be here today to witness the enthusiasm demonstrated by the learners and the potential they are exhibiting and I commend Experience Oxfordshire and Activate Learning on coming together with this initiative.”

Learner, Ellie Holt, front of house at the Hospitality Lunch, said: “I’ve really enjoyed training here with Activate Learning, the facilities are brilliant and the trainers are so encouraging – they all have a restaurant background. I’m looking forward to trying new cuisines and my ambition is to run my own pub one day.”

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