University links up with housing provider to help young Londoners get on the career ladder
A group of young unemployed Londoners has been given a chance to launch their dream careers, training to be chefs under the tutelage of internationally renowned restaurateur Huseyin Özer.
The scheme - a partnership between Middlesex University, national affordable housing provider Affinity Sutton and Huseyin Özer’s Sofra International restaurant chain - will see the group of social housing residents given the chance to learn a trade but also gain recognised university qualifications.
The three month course is the brainchild of Affinity Sutton’s Sean McGinn and Middlesex University work based learning expert Alex Mortimer who wanted to find a way of improving the chances of people struggling to find a real career, by providing the all important first steps on the ladder.
And having come from humble beginnings himself, Huseyin Özer jumped at the chance to pass on skills gained during a career that began in a London kebab shop but led to ownership of a chain of restaurants in locations like the West End and Mayfair alongside TV work including BBC’s Masterchef.
Funded by Affinity Sutton, the course will see the group receiving training sessions given by Huseyin Özer and his chefs, alongside Middlesex University tutors, covering everything from cookery to customer service, health and safety and kitchen management. The trainees cooking skills will then be put to the test as the team take on work experience in a Sofra International restaurant.
And aside from receiving mentorship and advice direct from one of London’s most successful restaurant owners, the group will have the added benefit of gaining Middlesex University qualifications, further improving their career prospects.
Course participant Martin Davis from Borehamwood has worked in hospitality roles before but had been looking for work since June. He jumped at the chance to gain experience and a qualification; “Before this course I felt like I was hitting a brick wall but now I feel like doors have been opened. Just getting up every morning and coming to work in Covent Garden is great and it’s confirmed my ambition to be a chef and run my own Greek restaurant.”
Sherise White from Lewisham is more used to being a stay at home mum with two young children than working in London’s West End, but was looking for opportunities to launch a career. She said: “I’ve always been interested in this type of work as my mum has a catering business but getting this chance has really surprised me. It’s shown me that I am capable of reaching my goals if I keep working at it.”
Huseyin Özer said: "I had no formal schooling in my native Turkey so the importance of access to good education and training has always been a cause close to my heart. Finding success is so much harder when there are no opportunities to get real work experience and qualifications, so playing my part in this project will ensure our students see how a business really works and learn skills they can practice in a professional environment. I started with nothing and found success, so I hope my experiences will inspire the group."
Alex Mortimer from Middlesex University’s Institute for Work Based Learning said: “In a tough economic climate you need qualifications and experience, so we’re delighted to have teamed up with Affinity Sutton to give this amazing opportunity to people who are struggling to find a real career. Mr Özer’s passion for education and entrepreneurship make him the ideal mentor and role model.”
Affinity Sutton’s Sean McGinn said: “This course is hopefully the first of many joint initiatives with employers that Affinity Sutton will sponsor to help its residents find employment. I’m really encouraged by the feedback I have received from the course participants and would like to say a big thank you to Mr Özer and Middlesex University for making this course a reality.”
Photo: Restauranteur Huseyin Özer with course participants at Sofra Covent Garden