First launched in 1991, the National Innovation in Training Awards (NITAs) was back for the second year after the BII reintroduced the event in 2016. In this article, we take a look at winning individuals and companies whose success demonstrated the level of training excellence within licensed hospitality.

Winner: St Austell Brewery

Award(s): Best Apprenticeship Programme and Best Training Programme (leased and tenanted companies under 200 outlets)

The Cornwall-based brewery took the NITAs by storm in November, where it scooped up two awards and celebrated the success of their tenants, Mark Holden and Justin Barnett, who won ‘Licensee Trainer of the Year’.

Having developed a partnership with HIT Training, St Austell’s award-winning apprenticeship programme provides a solid foundation for those wishing to start a career as a chef. From cookery books to workshops, it goes back to basics and focuses on developing core skills. Learners also take part in other activities to diversify their learning experience – from food provenance to butchery.

The company’s training programme was designed to raise standards in a way that’s bespoke and appropriate to their tenants and lessees. It allows them to choose training which suits both the needs of their business and teams. Tenants and lessees have complete control in the programme’s development and receive on-going support from St Austell’s L&D trainers. There are a series of workshops delivered on-site: Steps of Service, Service Recovery, Service Skills, Beer Knowledge and Wine Knowledge.

Richard Parkes, learning and development manager at St Austell, said: “We are thrilled to have received awards for both our apprenticeship and tenant training programmes at this year’s NITAs. To be recognised at this event along with the industry’s best shows how passionate we are about developing people in this industry.”

Winner: 16 Hospitality

Award(s): Best Managed Training Programme (companies under 50 outlets)

With four sites spread across Cheshire and North Wales, 16 Hospitality was rewarded for the development of ‘The Hub’, a training programme designed for people without industry experience.

This practical training scheme utilises a mixture of qualifications and ‘away day’ trips to teach students the ropes of hospitality operations. The away day trips are diverse in nature and help to enrich learners’ experience, ranging from foraging to sea fishing, butchery to brewery tours.

Edward Barlow, managing director of 16 Hospitality, said: “What we want to offer at The Hub is not only a practical training programme but life-changing experiences, beginning with being handed an alarm clock to help with those early mornings and a ‘rookie’ badge. Those who succeed will not only receive graduation honours, they will receive a job guarantee at either one of our venues or one of our carefully selected partners.”

Winner: Bill’s Restaurants

Award(s): Best Managed Training Programme (companies over 50 outlets)

The winner of the Best Managed Training Programme (over 50 outlets) was awarded to Bill’s Restaurants. The company’s extensive training programme has played a key role in developing staff, improving retention and achieving strong commercial results.

The story of Bill’s goes back to 2000 when a flood hit the town of Lewes and destroyed a greengrocers shop owned to Bill Collison. He started again soon after, only this time it was a café which focused on serving freshly prepared food. Fast-forward to 2018, Bill’s now has over 80 restaurants nationwide and still retains the founding principles that inspired Collison 18 years ago.

Winner: Oakman Inns

Award(s): Best Casual Dining Programme

After receiving the prestigious Princess Royal Training Award, the team at Oakman Inns didn’t have to wait long for its next award-winning success (two weeks to be precise). This time it was at the NITAs where the company claimed the award for Best Casual Dining Programme.

Oakmanology is the company’s online training and development platform which supports employees with their career ambitions. Taking inspiration from the company’s ethos, ‘To Be The Best We Can Be’, it has become the internal brand name for all training and skills development within the business.

Oakman Inns’ HR director, Jill Scatchard, who spearheaded the Oakmanology project, said: “When we started the process of designing and developing Oakmanology, it had to mirror the company’s existing HR programme and support each Oakman employee’s progression in their chosen career pathway.

“Learning activities are as visual as possible, and after a compulsory ‘induction’ stage, all the craft modules are available 24/7 to every individual regardless of their job role or personal career journey. This inclusive, flexible approach means that everyone, whatever their role or passion, has access to a structured learning environment where they can find out about other roles and develop new, core skill-sets required for running a casual dining venue.”

Oakman Inns, which began a little over a decade ago in the Hertfordshire town of Tring, is set to grow its estate to 23 sites by June this year. At this point, Oakman Inns will employ a team of almost 800 individuals, all of whom have the support and guidance to build a career that’s right for them.

Winner: Punch Taverns

Award(s): Best Training Programme (leased and tenanted companies under 200 outlets)

With 1,300 sites in the UK, Punch Taverns was the largest company to win at last year’s NITAs, receiving recognition for the Art of the Possible (AOP) training programme.

AOP is designed to help tenants and lessees improve the profitability of their business and maximise their market position. The programme’s learners are nominated by pub development managers and often fall into two categories – those new to the industry and experienced publicans – both of which harbouring contrasting attitudes towards training.

To make a success of AOP, Punch laid the foundations to create a programme that takes publicans on a learning journey, where they are supported, educated, motivated and inspired. With a blended approach to L&D, the programme is based around four workshops: Retailing Experience, Go for Growth, Path to Profit and Passion for People. Each module is comprised of various learning components and is supported by assignments, tasks, on-going mentoring, and e-learning modules.

Steve Dando, interim CEO at Punch, said: “We are delighted to receive this recognition, particularly against such stiff competition. At Punch we are committed to helping our Publicans grow their businesses, and ‘Art of the Possible’ has demonstrated the genuine value that Publicans derive from the programme and their motivation to make continual and tangible improvements to their business.”

Winner: Simon Haslam

Award(s): Professional Trainer of the Year

The winner of Professional Trainer of the Year went to Simon Haslam, a training specialist with hospitality experience that ranges from golf clubs to hotels, Butlins to Mitchells and Butlers.

As a training contractor for CPL, Haslam set up his own independent training business in 2016 and specialises in delivering a range of compliance subjects, which include Award for Personal Licence Holders, Health and Safety, Food Safety, First Aid and Fire Marshal.

Speaking about his approach to training, Haslam said: “I always try to empathise with learners and adopt a versatile approach. This way, it helps people feel at ease and learn in an environment where they can perform their best.”

Haslam added: “It was a privilege to win this award at the NITAs. It’s helped me step outside my comfort zone, focus on what I’m doing well, and also seize on opportunities to improve.”

Winner: Mark Holden

Award(s): Licensee Trainer of the Year

Mark Holden and Justin Barnett are St Austell tenants who jointly run two pubs in Cornwall, the Victoria Inn in Threemilestone and its namesake in Roche. Having picked up the award for Licensee Trainer of the Year, Mark and Justin have created an environment where staff have access to a large variety of learning activities, from social media to business profitability.

“Winning at the NITAs made me sit back and appreciate how hard our team have worked,” said Holden. “The training in place here, we don’t force anyone to do it. It’s done off their own accord. We saw an opportunity to offer a wide range of learning activities, and they’ve jumped on the opportunity to develop. As soon as they’ve completed one course or activity, they’re hungry for the next. You can’t buy that. This is why, for me, winning was quite emotional. The award isn’t about me or Justin, it’s all about my team; the effort they’ve put in and their on-going support for the business.”

Richard Parkes of St Austell added: “To see our tenants from the Victoria Inn, Threemilestone and Roche win an award for Licensee Trainer of the Year was the icing on the cake and proves that the culture of training is spread across all aspects of the company. A fantastic result for all those involved.”

Winner: David Bruce

Award(s): Franca Knowles – Lifetime Achievement Award

David Bruce, who began his career as a brewer for Courage and Theakston in 1966, was the worthy winner of the Franca Knowles – Lifetime Achievement Award. Bruce is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in the industry, having founded Firkin Brewery, The Capital Pub Company, and The City Pub Company (the latter two alongside business partner Clive Watson).

Keith Knowles, who led a panel to select the winner of this award, said: “David is such a worthy winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s invested his money for the benefit of the industry and for the good of people time and time again.

“In 1979 David started Firkin Brewery. It was here where he created proper pubs, proper beer and great people. When he sold that chain, David invested his money in canal barges and spent time taking disabled people, along with their families, away on holiday. I just think that’s wonderful. Whether it’s pubs, bars or breweries, he’s a serious businessman trying to deliver serious products, but underneath he’s a philanthropist with a love of people. What’s not to like about that? My wife Franca always believed it was important to share goodwill. By doing so, she thought that it would make for a better industry. David Bruce epitomises all of this and more.”

As for this year’s NITAs, Knowles added: “It’d be great to hear your nominations for the Lifetime Achievement Award; someone who carries the heart, soul and spirit of the industry – and not just a bank balance.”

Winner: CPL Training Group

Award(s): Innovation Award

Daniel Davies and CPL Training Group were also among the winners last year, claiming the Innovation Award, which recognises a person or company who have shown the strongest innovative thinking and delivery.

BII CEO Mike Clist, who led a panel to choose the winner, said: “Making the decision in 2017 was an easy choice, as Dan Davies and CPL have, over the years, shown incredible innovation in the way they train staff, BDM’s, tenants, managers and freeholders. They are constantly innovating and designing training fit for the 21st century and were incredibly deserving of the accolade.”

“The NITAs is a fantastic event which serves as a platform to celebrate the industry’s training and development,” said Daniel Davies. “It means an awful lot to win this award. Since the very beginning, we have strived to be more than just an industry supplier. We always regard our relationship with the industry as a partnership; a company that works in tandem with operators to deliver excellent learning solutions. Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to the BII for your strong support.”