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Case study

Case study: Sandhills Court


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Developing catering skills in the adult care sector

Sandhills Court is leading the way in BUPA, by creating industry placement opportunities in care homes for catering students. It is now spreading the word across the company about the benefits of this approach in attracting skilled young people into the industry.

This 72-bed care home in Scunthorpe, Lincs, Sandhills Court provides residential and specialist dementia care for older adults. As BUPA’s current Care Home of the Year, it employs two chefs and six catering assistants who plan, prepare and serve meals to residents in its four restaurants.

Industry placement students prepare food at Sandhills Court

One of Sandhills Court’s chefs works with North Lindsey College, to lead, manage and develop the home’s catering placements. Once a suitable student has been identified, each placement is designed so that the student learns skills for their course which are also immediately useful in the home’s kitchen.

The focus is on supporting students to gain skills and experience across the breadth of responsibilities associated with a busy professional catering department and to allow them to shine. Students have opportunities to work on all aspects of food preparation, to help with serving meals and to learn about aspects of management such as budgeting and ordering. If a student has an interest in a specific area of catering, every effort is made to build on this.

“What we find with students is, because we’ve got them for the 350 hours, we might only have them two days a week, but that 2 days a week soon builds up. They’re much more than an extra pair of hands, they’re a competent pair of hands. Because the students are there to learn and to help us, it alleviates a pressure on the sharp end staff in the kitchen.”
David Elsom, Chef, Sandhills Court

Sandhills Court offers a safe setting where catering students can develop and practise their skills. A Young Person’s Risk Assessment is carried out for all students under 18. And the seasonal peaks and unsociable hours which can impact on the viability of placements in parts of the catering and hospitality industry do not typically apply in the adult care sector.

The experience of providing industry placements has been overwhelmingly positive. One student has subsequently been employed by Sandhills Court as a catering assistant and others will be encouraged to apply as vacancies arise.

"Buddying" for skill development

To gain experience across all aspects of the catering department’s work, students are “buddied up” with a different member of staff for each shift during the first few weeks of the placement. Students observe others and then perform tasks under observation themselves.

Once they have demonstrated proficiency, they are encouraged to work independently on delegated tasks. This means that expectations about the quality of work and procedures to be followed are clearly communicated. It helps students’ build confidence and allows staff to develop new skills in coaching and mentoring.

Return on investment

Industry placements add value in the catering department by:

  • creating a pool of talent for future recruitment, for the employer and the industry
  • skilled and enthusiastic young people who can deliver core tasks. They can cover experienced staff who might be ill or on leave and reduce pressure during busy periods
  • boosting the morale and job satisfaction for existing staff, especially through mentoring and supporting young people
  • bringing new ideas, skills and knowledge into the workplace, that students have developed through their course, improving quality and productivity

“The students come through, we see what they’re like, we see what their work ethic’s like, and then they go back to college because they’ve finished their time. If we have a vacancy, we often say, ‘Would you like an application form?’ I think it’s a good way for any employer to get to know before you employ them.”
David Elsom, Chef, Sandhills Court


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