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Charity and Edinburgh hotel giving work hopefuls a helping hand

Ross O’Neill
As 2017 ushers in a new year of work aspirations, one of Edinburgh’s top 4-star hotels is continuing to partner with a leading charity in Scotland’s capital with the aim of giving young people meaningful training and work placement opportunities in the hospitality sector.

For the past five years, the 238-bedroom Radisson Blu Edinburgh hotel, located on the historic Royal Mile has worked closely with Canongate Youth. Celebrating its 40th year in 2017, the registered charity provides support, recreation and training opportunities for 5-25 year-olds to help them overcome barriers and to secure a positive future.  

Catherine McMillan is an Employability and Training Support Worker with Canongate Youth. Over the past 12 months her employability team has helped over 100 young people secure positive training opportunities in the local community.    

As McMillan explained: “There’s a consistent demand for the services of Canongate Youth and over the years we have supported hundreds of young people from across the capital and Lothian.  The vision of the charity is to help young people ‘Be, Belong and Become.’  We want to give those who come to us the chance to feel healthy, happy and secure and to develop the confidence to lead fulfilled adult lives.”  

A cornerstone of the employability aspect of the charity’s work is to engender greater self-confidence and belief in the young people it supports.  Added Catherine: “Every individual’s needs are different but quite often you find that they simply need help with building their confidence to feel able to go out and do things on their own. Personal circumstances mean that some come to us with no previous training or work placement experience.  

“A young person can be filling out a job application and even before they have finished, he or she will be saying they are never going to get it (the job). So through the likes of our ‘CY 3 Steps Up’ programme, we aim to help them to get positive work experiences for their CV and to feel good about what they have achieved.  They just need help in believing they can do it.”  

“We are very fortunate to have enjoyed links with Radisson Blu Edinburgh for several years, with individuals able to benefit from invaluable work experience as part of the kitchen or maintenance team at the hotel.  Some have even been able to complete a ‘Certificate of Work Readiness’ qualification through their placement. It’s a fantastic opportunity for a young person to build their self-confidence and skills in hospitality.  I can’t speak highly enough of the relationship we enjoy with what is an important local employer.”  

Ross O’Neill, an 18-year old from the south of Edinburgh (Gilmerton area) is one such recipient of the training at the award winning Radisson Blu Edinburgh.   The former pupil of Liberton High School describes himself as a shy individual who was lacking in self-confidence.   

A keen footballer, he initially hoped a Street League course would enable him to find work in sport. However, an introduction to hospitality studies in 4th year at school had also piqued his interest in food and hospitality.  With no avenue to pursue his football ambitions, in the autumn of 2016 the coaches put him in touch with Canongate Youth.  By November, the charities employability and employment team had secured Ross a training placement within the 10-strong kitchen team at Radisson Blu Edinburgh.   

Explained Ross: “Since 4th year at school, I’ve really enjoyed practical work that involves using food.  I don’t (yet) have a favourite dish but I do like working with meats.”  

“Before I met the team at Radisson Blu (Edinburgh) for the first time, I thought this will be really scary, but when I went into the kitchen everyone said hello, asked me my name and where I was from and helped me to settle.  They told me I wasn’t there to impress anyone, just to learn and to do my job. So I didn’t feel too much pressure.  They have all been really nice and chilled and helping me out. Everyone has a role in the kitchen and they all look after me and keep me right.  I’ve made some mistakes but I’m told it’s all part of learning!  

“As a comis chef (working 10am-630pm) I can be chopping, peeling and sorting vegetables and I’ve also done a little grilling and frying. It’s fast paced in the kitchen and I know I need to speed up without making errors.”  

Ross hopes 2017 will see his ambitions to become a chef further progress thanks to the support of Canongate Youth and Radisson Blu Edinburgh. “It’s a great team (in the Radisson) and everyone is really friendly.  The waitresses always say hi when they come into the kitchen.  It’s all really boosting my self-confidence.”  

Richard Mayne, the General Manager of Radisson Blu Edinburgh, added: “As a leading Edinburgh hotel, we regard ourselves as a responsible employer and very much part of the fabric of the local community.  

“Our strong relationship with Canongate Youth reflects our wish to ensure all staff and potential employees benefit from positive and meaningful training and development opportunities. I am very pleased that as part of our kitchen team, individual’s like Ross (O’Neill) are able to boost their self-confidence and to learn invaluable skills for pursuing his career aspirations in the hotel sector.”

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