LTA23 Student of the year shortlist announced

19 October 2023

Marketing Lancashire and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have today (Thursday 19th November) announced the shortlist for the Hospitality and Tourism Student of the Year award which will form part of the Lancashire Tourism Awards 2023 (LTA23) to be held on February 6th 2024.

Four students from three of Lancashire’s leading colleges will be considered for the award. Launched in a partnership between Marketing Lancashire and UCLan last year, the award is designed to recognise individuals currently undertaking a tourism, events or catering related course at a further education college within Lancashire. The shortlisted student will demonstrate exceptional commitment, passion and enthusiasm towards a career in hospitality or tourism. Each of the four students shortlisted are excelling in their studies and placements and have been nominated by tutors or placement managers who feel they should be applauded for their work and recognise that they are exceeding expectations.

The finalists are Kirsty Helme, FDQ L3 Diploma in Professional Bakery at Blackpool and the Fylde College, Connor Tyler, Level 3 In Professional Cookery at Blackburn College, Kai Rothwell, and Negar Rezaei, who are both studying NCFE L3 National Extended Diploma in Travel and Tourism at Burnley College.

Vikki Harris, Marketing and Partnerships Director of Marketing Lancashire commenting on today’s announcement said, “We are so pleased to announce the finalists in what is only the second year for this exciting award. At a time when hospitality businesses are facing skills and recruitment challenges more than ever, it is so important to recognise the commitment of these students who are part of the next generation of the industry. We hope that by being nominated for the Hospitality and Tourism Student of the Year award they will be further encouraged to continue the great work they are doing, and be inspired by the businesses that are finalists to pursue a career within the industry in Lancashire.”

Commenting on the announcement Professor Steven Rhoden, Dean of the School of Business at UCLan said, “It’s great to recognise the talent that is being developed in the county. We have such a good offering within the hospitality, tourism and events industry in Lancashire and to see these students learn from such well-known names is fantastic. I am thrilled with the quality that we have seen this year. There were so many great applicants, but the four finalists show the highest standards that we expect of travel and tourism students. I know that the winner will be fully recognised for their talent.”

Each of the four finalists bring something unique to the awards:

Kirsty Helme is studying for her FDQ L3 Diploma in Professional Bakery at Blackpool and the Fylde College. During her Level 2 year Kirsty was recognised within the programme as Student of the Year due to her unwavering motivation and passion. Displaying a high level of precision and attention to detail, Kirsty thrives in showing off her skills and was even buddied to a late-joining student to help them find their way within the course. Other students within the course look up to Kirsty, whose passion lies in cake decorating, something which she even takes outside the classroom; attending the Blackpool branch of the British Sugar Craft Guild monthly. In addition to her studies Kirsty is learning new skills through her role at Barton Grange within the pastry team and hopes to specialise in Patisserie and Confectionery in the future.

Negar Rezaei is studying the NCFE L3 National Extended Diploma in Travel and Tourism at Burnley College. Negar’s commitment and passion for the industry saw her complete the Level 1 Diploma with such satisfactory academic achievement that she was promoted straight to the Level 3 path of the programme. Negar has a passion for travel and is keen to become a commercial airline pilot which is why she has chosen the travel and tourism course. Negar has put her strength into her studies and part time work after fleeing her home country of Iran to escape persecution. This traumatic experience has driven her determination to achieve her dreams. In addition to her studies she works part time at a high street retail store and for Burnley Football Club, whilst also assisting her mother’s home-based business, Saffron Kitchen. Negar’s mother has a language barrier which Negar recognised could hinder the growth of the business, so she took it upon herself to ensure its success by taking on the customer care side of the business, displaying a level of professionalism and maturity expected of someone twice her age.

Kai Rothwell, is also a NCFE L3 National Extended Diploma in Travel and Tourism student at Burnley College. Now in his second year of the programme, Kai’s passion for travel and determination to achieve results have pushed him above and beyond other students. His dedication shines through in written work and in addition to this he takes a hands on approach to the course, volunteering with many activities across Burnley College, including acting as a teaching assistant during taster classes for prospective students. Kai recently joined the travel team as an integral part of an event for Pendleside Hospice which resulted in earnings of more than £1,000 for the charity. Outside of work Kai works within the higher end hospitality offering as part of the team delivering excellent service in the Burnley Football Club Executive Boxes and as a waiter on the East Lancashire Railway’s Dining with Distinction train services. He also started his own business at the age of 13 designing and distributing leaflets on behalf of local shops, dance studios, high schools and more.

Connor Tyler is currently undertaking his Level 3 in Professional Cookery at Blackburn College while also working at the Lancashire Tourism Awards 2023 Taste Lancashire Award nominated Fell Urban Bistro. Connor has been nominated by the team at Fell Urban Bistro due to his huge level of commitment, and for going above and beyond in his role there. Connor is a passionate and driven young chef with a great level of understanding when it comes to running a hospitality business. He recognised the importance of front of house staff training to serve the desserts on offer, and took it upon himself to provide that training, creating standard operating procedures complete with pictures and guides for the staff to understand more about the desserts they were serving and how they should be presented. What’s more, Connor approaches each day with a touch of humour and entertainment of the team to help keep them motivated and engaged.

The four finalists will be invited to an interview with a number of academics and industry experts at UCLan in the coming weeks to determine the winner of the award. The winner will then be invited to join leading hospitality, travel and tourism industry players at the LTA23 ceremony which takes place on Tuesday 6th February 2024 at King George’s Hall in Blackburn, with headline sponsor UCLan, destination sponsor Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and other leading Lancashire businesses including: Blackpool & The Fylde College, Burnley FC Conferences and Events, Creative Venue Stylist, DFC, Harrison Drury Solicitors, Insight6, Lancashire Business View, Lancaster University Management School, Links Signs and Graphics, Northern Print Distribution Ltd, The Centre For Family Business at Lancaster University, The Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business,Total Foodservice and Brindle Distillery.

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