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Whitbread announces ambition to get 100 supported interns into paid employment from special needs educational establishments every year

7 Nov 2023 Brand

Premier Inn Hereford College Graduation Coventry

Announcement marks Purple Tuesday

To mark this year’s Purple Tuesday (Tuesday, November 7th) – the movement striving to improve customer experience for disabled people and their families year-round – Whitbread today reveals a long-term ambition to get 100 supported interns into paid employment from special needs educational establishments every year.

Whitbread which owns the UK’s biggest hotel company Premier Inn, is announcing an acceleration of its longstanding work with colleges supporting young people with complex disabilities and learning difficulties.

It will draw on its existing relationships to find new partnerships across the UK and achieve its goal.

Whitbread has been working with specialist colleges for over a decade and has built mini-Premier Inn hotels on site at Derwen and Hereward colleges in Oswestry and Coventry – identical to ‘real’ hotels – which operate as training facilities for students.

The hotels are completely indistinguishable from regular hotels, right down to ‘do not disturb’ signs on the doors and the tea and coffee-making facilities Premier Inn guests are familiar with, featuring three en-suite bedrooms, a reception desk, corridor and linen rooms. They were made possible thanks to the outstanding support of some of Whitbread’s suppliers, who generously donated their time and money to support with the builds.

The tiny Premier Inns, built as part of Whitbread’s Force For Good programme, are partnership projects with the national further educational facilities, which specialise in skills training for independent living and employment for young people with disabilities and additional needs.

From guest relations to housekeeping, the facilities enable young people to learn about all areas of hospitality in a completely realistic, yet safe to learn in hotel environment – and are believed to be the only examples of their type in the UK.

Excitingly, young people taking part in the programme have the opportunity to undertake supported internships and many have gone on to paid employment in Premier Inn hotels across the country.

Retention rates for students who move into employment with Premier Inn are high, with the majority still employed by the company. For others, the experience has built their confidence and relationships/skills for life with some going on to work for other major companies outside of hospitality. 

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. We welcome tens of millions of guests to our hotels and restaurants every year, lots of who have disabilities – hidden and visible – and it’s really important they feel represented in our team member base. We recognise true inclusion never stands still and so we’re absolutely delighted to announce our intent to accelerate our work in this vital area”.

Paul Cook MBE, Principal and CEO of Hereward College commented: “It’s incredibly energising when a prestigious corporation of the size of Whitbread invests in the specialist college sector. Being part of the Whitbread Force for Good strategy is a huge privilege for Hereward College and we are committed to continuing to work closely with Whitbread to realise the potential of this opportunity across the country.”

Purple Tuesday CEO Mike Adams OBE added: “The best disability inclusive organisations are ones that provide a quality customer experience and promote real employment opportunities. Representation in every sense. We are delighted that Whitbread are Purple Tuesday Partners.”

Whitbread is committed to supporting all its colleagues, including those from under-represented groups such as those with disabilities, people who are ethnically diverse and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans sexual, non-binary or use another term.

Last year on Purple Tuesday it announced its commitment to the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower., across its UK & Ireland sites.

If you are an educational institution or local authority and are interested in exploring this opportunity, please email in the first instance.

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