WITH young people’s jobs and career prospects hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic in recent months, one leading Lake District restaurant is forging ahead when it comes to inspiring Cumbria’s next generation of industry leaders

Ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, which runs next week from February 8 to 14, the Michelin-starred Cottage in the Wood in Whinlatter Forest is offering its four newest recruits a combination of apprenticeships and on-the-job training in partnership with the University of Cumbria.

It ispart of its vision to nurture new talent and help young people forge ahead with meaningful long-term careers in the tourism industry when the current restrictions ease.

All in their 20s, the full list of new staff starting at the Cottage in the Wood this spring will be Cockermouth-based Sophie Court-Oak and Josh Crowther, along with Daisy Wright from Wigton and Heli Seymour, who is originally from Parsonby near Aspatria.

SMILES: (Left to right) Sophie Court-Oak, Daisy Wright and Heli Seymour of the Cottage

SMILES: (Left to right) Sophie Court-Oak, Daisy Wright and Heli Seymour of the Cottage

28-year-old Heli will be developing her skills as a sommelier while working towards her Senior Leader Master’s degree apprenticeship. She recently moved back to Cumbria following several roles in the Scottish wine trade, including a wine importer, a small distillery, and a wine wholesaler.

She said: “I spent last March’s lockdown in Cumbria and reconnected with a love of the Lakes and the lifestyle it provides.

"So I jumped at the prospect of the sommelier job with a small Cumbrian business which not only operates at a Michelin-starred level, but also has a fantastic energy and friendliness about it.

“I’m particularly looking forward to interacting with guests and advising them in a knowledgeable but down-to-earth way.”

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Sophie Court-Oak and Daisy Wright, 23, will both be starting their Chartered Manager Degree apprenticeships at the University of Cumbria in 2021.

At the same time, they will be supporting the Cottage in the Wood’s restaurant director Monika Zurawska with front-of-house activities in the bar and restaurant.

Although Daisy’s first job was in administration, she has redirected her attention to gaining practical hands-on training in food and beverages, while Sophie’s long-term goal is to own her own café.

The Cottage in the Wood’s fourth recruit, Josh, will be starting a six-month stint in the kitchen this spring. The placement is part of the Government’s Kickstart Scheme to create new job opportunities for 16- to 24-year-olds and will be a rare opportunity to help with food preparation behind the scenes at a Michelin-starred restaurant and develop specialist skills such as bread making.

It comes as a fifth member of staff, Emily Leadbetter-Cooper, recently finished her Production Chef apprenticeship in conjunction with Kendal College, as a building block to a long-lasting career in hospitality.

The Cottage in the Wood’s chef director Ben Wilkinson is hoping the four latest recruits will make an equally lasting impression on the industry in 2021 and beyond.

He said: “We believe that a good business starts with good people and our strategy is all about identifying young people with enormous potential and passion and helping them to make the most of their strengths and aspirations.

“Right now, the industry as a whole is suffering, but we want to do our bit to help build a more positive future and ensure that the tourism and hospitality sector can emerge from the pandemic in good shape.

“We’re proud to be working with the University of Cumbria to nurture practical skills alongside formal qualifications, which will help the next generation to succeed in an incredibly creative and rewarding profession.”

JOINING: Dr Angela Anthonisz of Cumbria Tourism

JOINING: Dr Angela Anthonisz of Cumbria Tourism

Dr Angela Anthonisz, a Principal Lecturer (Tourism and Visitor Economy) at the University of Cumbria, said: “It’s great to see key businesses leading the way when it comes to proactively managing the talent pipeline and investing in developing the skills and knowledge of their team at all levels.

"I think this clearly showcases the positive attitude needed to ensure Cumbria’s recovery from the impact of Covid and I hope to see many more providers follow suit.”