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Former City College Plymouth student Louise Creber has enjoyed a successful and varied career. Her position as Business Development Manager for a global construction company seems a far cry from her first job as a receptionist at the Grand Brighton Hotel; but, for Louise, the progression was a natural one thanks to the skills she acquired while studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management, from 1985 to 1988.
After gaining what she described as disappointing O-Levels, Louise decided to leave Plymouth’s St Dunstan’s Abbey, which could only offer A-Levels for her post-16 education. Louise said: “There was no point staying on at sixth form. I wasn’t interested in A-Levels; I knew I wanted to do something more vocational rather than following the more traditional university route. I was attracted to City College because it offered a wider choice of vocational opportunities.”
She was unsure of what to study, but when handed a course guide, she was instantly drawn to the hotel catering and management course – possibly lured by the prospect of living in France for a year. Louise added: “I was that teenager who had no idea what career to choose. The course sounded a little bit different and offered me the chance to travel. I am a sociable person and I love meeting new people, which is probably why I felt drawn to the hospitality industry.”
Her year in France started with a six-month placement at a French-Swiss catering school in the Jura, followed by a further six months working in a hotel on the South West coast of France. Louise described the year abroad as hard work but an incredible opportunity to live and work in a country that also resulted in her becoming fluent in French.
About her time at the College, Louise said: “I didn’t really know much about the course, but it was one of the best decisions I made. We were taught by senior lecturers, all of whom had exceptional levels of industry experience. I liked that we were taught in small groups and the variety offered by the curriculum. We covered so many aspects: culinary skills, silver service, how to run a successful hotel – we even learnt about wine – but the main focus of the course was how to deliver a first-class service.”
Louise completed her course with a distinction and was approached by a number of employers -including one in San Francisco – but decided to go to Brighton. After more than 15 years in the hotel industry, Louise’s career moved into Sales and she has enjoyed a number of very successful positions at different corporations. Louise said she puts this success largely down to the skills she acquired at the College. She added: “While there isn’t a great demand for knowledge about Chardonnay or Chablis in my job as business development manager, the focus on providing a top-quality service to customers is vital. I didn’t appreciate at the time just how many of the skills I gained from the course would help me in other jobs.
“If you don’t really know what you want to do after leaving school, my advice would be to choose something that sounds fun, or perhaps something that is a bit different. I would also advocate studying abroad as learning another language can often bring huge benefits.
“City College offers a huge variety of courses – there is sure to be something that attracts your attention: just go for it.”