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Blackpool Tourism Academy gets green light

Blackpool has secured £1m to set up a new Tourism Academy aimed at raising the skills of people who work in the resort’s visitor economy. The funding comes from the government’s Employer Ownership Pilot (EOP), and will co-fund £2m investment in skills training planned by several leading tourism employers within Blackpool over the next 3 years.

The consortium led by Blackpool Pleasure Beach includes Merlin Entertainments who operate Blackpool Tower, Sealife Centre and Madame Tussauds; Cuerden Leisure who run the Winter Gardens, two piers and arcades; Blackpool Transport Services who run the resort’s buses and trams; as well as the award winning Sandcastle Waterpark and Blackpool Zoo. The consortium has been supported by Blackpool Council and Blackpool and the Fylde College through the bidding process.

Nigel Kilgallon, Chair of the Blackpool Tourism Academy Board and Director at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, said:

“Blackpool Tourism Academy is a consortium of key leisure attractions within the UK’s premier seaside resort dedicated to boosting the skills of its seasonal and year round workforce.

With the assistance of this funding we can now significantly expand the range of customer service, supervisory and management programmes on offer to our employees, and pioneer a new tourism practice apprenticeship.”

The training available will range from customer service, supervisory and management programmes, to spectator management, gaming awareness, selling techniques and passenger carrying. Over 2,500 training places will be available to staff within the Academy founding employers alone. Courses will feature participants from across several businesses at once, and will be hosted at a range of employer venues.

John Child, Managing Director of Sandcastle Waterpark:

“This is a truly innovative and ambitious programme. We are introducing a skills progression model that will be recognised throughout the resort. Our starting point will be to embrace the international customer service standard known as WorldHost, best known for training up thousands of volunteers at the London Olympics.

Our ambition is for Blackpool to be the first UK seaside resort to gain WorldHost destination status. In doing so we will training up our own frontline staff as well as offering highly subsidised training places to any tourism or retail business in the resort that wishes to gain WorldHost recognition.”

One of the more innovative proposals to emerge is a desire to design a new tourism apprenticeship.

Bev Robinson, Principal and Chief Executive of B&F College said:
“The Blackpool Tourism Academy will pioneer the design of a new apprenticeship framework to meet to the needs of a modern tourism industry. Each employer will have slightly different requirements so the apprenticeship framework will have bespoke modules such as spectator management or selling skills. Once designed, the aim is to create over 100 new apprentice opportunities for people in Blackpool.”

Overall the Tourism Academy aims to deliver over 5,000 new training opportunities for staff within businesses across the resort up to 2017.

Cllr Fred Jackson, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, added:
“This skills investment is fantastic boost for the many thousands of people who work so hard in our resort to achieve a first class visitor experience. Blackpool Council is fully behind the objectives of the Tourism Academy to nurture home grown talent and I’m delighted that we’ve secured this funding.

“Not only will the Tourism Academy help our businesses to train up staff to be more welcoming but it will also bring a large amount of money into the town, creating apprenticeships and improving our tourism offer as a whole. Blackpool is already a welcoming town to the millions of visitors who come here every year, but the new academy will help take our customer service for tourists to a new level.”