West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges

8 October 2019

Wine School of Excellence: Certified training for the hospitality industry through The Skills Service

On a sunny Friday afternoon in York, we caught up with Gillian Tinney - Managing Director of the Wine School of Excellence (WSE).

Newly contracted to deliver through The Skills Service, WSE is an ‘independent’ wine education company. Passionate about wine, Gillian uses a different approach to most companies involved in the trade by incorporating more creative and innovative training styles and methodologies. As an approved programme provider with the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET), the leading worldwide industry educational body, they run courses from novice to professional for the on and off trade as well as the wine and/or spirit enthusiast.

Gillian - “There is a demand in the hospitality industry for certified wine and spirits professionals, but it can prove challenging to fund these courses due to the transient nature of the sector. 40% European Social Fund funding through The Skills Service is not only a sizeable chunk, but also an amazing opportunity for businesses to access grants for these types of courses. The staff need it, establishments need it. Developing critical skill set knowledge will enhance the customer experience, aid staff retention and ultimately, and importantly for any business, dramatically increase the potential for good revenue growth.”

WSE offers three ‘Award in Wine’ courses on The Skills Service catalogue, from level one to level three.

“Level one is very much about introducing learners to the key grapes and wines as well as food and wine matching. It’s an entry level one day course with an exam at the end of it. Level two, very much the industry standard, delves deeper and builds on the knowledge gained at level one. Level three is much more advanced and takes you into roles where you can start selecting cellar lists, manage wine procurement and so on. Level three is really desirable in industry and helps give people more security in their role

“I provide lunch for the delegates on the courses, which is geared to the wines of the day to either clash with them or match beautifully. It’s very important because, if businesses don’t get food and wine matching right, customers might not have a great experience. Staff can provide customers with more confident suggestions and advice to help them make a great selection.”

Gillian has come up with various inventive ways to help her students to embed the knowledge learned on the WSE courses. This includes developing board games designed to be used by teams in the hospitality sector, these can be purchased on the WSE website.

“I push my students quite hard but it’s worth it as they often come out of the exam with distinctions. When delegates pass they get badges that are colour coded to the level they’re at, which they can wear on their aprons when working. People who do these courses will be passionate about wines and do it for the love of the job, as the work can be hard and the hours unsociable.

“My advice to organisations would be to get staff trained up in these qualifications, as it’s a great incentive for them to stay with the business in such a transient industry.

“I’m excited to be a provider of The Skills Service because I recognise that people in the hospitality industry need this knowledge. The better their knowledge becomes, the better their service becomes. The average customer knows more about wine than ever before, which means when they go to bars and restaurants their expectations are already set higher than they used to be.”

The Wine School of Excellence courses that are being delivered through The Skills Service can be found through our Course Listings


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