Former Derwen College student celebrates five years working with Premier Inn.
A proud Premier Inn employee is celebrating five years working in housekeeping after training in Hospitality at specialist Shropshire college, Derwen College.
James Lewis, who has Down’s Syndrome, works in housekeeping for two days a week at Premier Inn Wrexham North. He loves his job, and is a vital part of the hotel’s team.
James can independently make up a room to industry standard, and knows the routine and exacting standards of Premier Inn off by heart.
James says: “I like everything about my job and do it all on my own.”
James, aged 28, started learning housekeeping skills as part of his training while at Derwen College – a specialist further education College, near Oswestry, which supports students into work and greater independence.
Derwen College has a small training hotel, which is modelled on a three-bedroom Premier Inn and was created with support from Premier Inn and Novus Property Solutions.
Named Hotel 751, it was the first Premier Inn training centre of its kind in the country, and opened to guests in 2019. Hotel 751 comprises a reception area, three en-suite bedrooms and a linen room all set to Premier Inn standard, creating a real-life work setting for learners. The centre was built as part of Premier Inn owner Whitbread’s Force for Good program, their sustainability program committed to team members, local communities and the environment. The decade long partnership with Derwen is an illustration of their commitment to providing opportunities to all with no barriers to entry and no limits to ambition.
As James became more confident in his housekeeping skills, he travelled to an external work placement at Premier Inn, once a week.
When he finished at College, he was keen to use his skills in a paid job. Knowing how well he had done at his work placement, Premier Inn Wrexham North were keen to offer him his first job.
Karen Aguilera, Operations Manager at Wrexham North Premier Inn, liaised with Derwen’s transition team to make his induction as smooth as possible. In November 2018, he received his first payslip.
James has also moved into supported living with a friend, and travels independently on the bus to work.
Karen says: “James works two days a week, completing rooms to Premier Inn standard. He services the room independently. We check the room after James has finished and give feedback if necessary. He takes real pride in his rooms.
“James is a good employee. He likes coming to work. He just gets on with his work and knows what he’s doing. He comes to our social events, including bowling and the Christmas do. He was quite shy at the first one, but now we can’t get him off the dancefloor!”
Derwen College Work Experience and Supported Internship Coordinator, Abi Baker, says:
“James was a pleasure to work with, he’s a hard worker with a cheeky sense of humour.
“We are so proud of him for all his hard work during work experience in our training hotel, and then externally.
“We were delighted to work with Premier Inn to help him transition into paid employment in Wrexham. Congratulations James on five years of paid employment!”
“We are very pleased to say that 24 of our students have gone on to work at Premier Inn after finishing at College.”
According to charity Mencap, fewer than 5% of adults with a learning disability are in paid work. Derwen College is proud to be able to partner with employers such as Premier Inn to improve this statistic.
Simon Ewins, Managing Director for Premier Inn and Restaurants and Whitbread Executive Sponsor for Disability Inclusion said: “As an inclusive employer, our longstanding college partnerships – and of course the graduates who have gone on to work for Premier Inn – are incredibly important to us. Congratulations to James for celebrating 5 years with us, we are incredibly proud to have him as part of our Premier Inn team and we’re delighted to be part of his journey’.
James enjoys living independently and is happy to have a busy life and a job, which he’s achieved through training at Derwen College, and his own hard work and positive attitude.
He says: “I like my job, my uniform, and friends here. My job makes me proud, and makes my Mum proud, too.”