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The Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Lost Gardens of Heligan runs one of Cornwall's top Apprenticeship programmes, growing their own chefs to award-winning standard and allowing individuals to boost their career in the Hospitality industry.

“Heligan has become an even better place to work because of our commitment to Apprenticeships…. They have allowed us to increase the number of food outlets on site, therefore improving service and profitability”

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Recognised as Cornwall’s SME Apprentice Employer of the Year 2022, the Lost Gardens of Heligan has built on its Horticulture Apprenticeships to upskill a further 10% of its current workforce, in a move that has resulted in the introduction of a number of new food outlets, increased profitability and improved service quality.

Restored in 1990 and taking the title of Europe’s Largest Garden Restoration Project, Heligan is considered one of England’s finest gardens with many parallels with the Secret Garden found in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s famous novel.

Not only home to 200-acres of beauty and award-winning on the European stage, Heligan has also been recognised for running one of Cornwall’s top Apprenticeship programmes, building on its traditional Horticulture programme to introduce Hospitality and Leadership Apprenticeships in partnership with Truro and Penwith College.

The ever-increasing skill set of Heligan’s staff has also been recognised with its Commis Chef Apprentice Aaron Robbins scooping Hospitality Apprentice of the Year at the 2022 Cornwall Apprenticeship Awards.

Managing Director, Ramon Van de Velde, joined Heligan in 2020, immediately making learning and development a key priority. Ramon said: “Really committing to an Apprenticeship programme was the foundation of our focus on learning and development.

“In addition to our Horticulture programmes, 10% of our employees from other areas of the business were given the opportunity to complete an Apprenticeship. This has been highly impactful for the business as a whole, and of course the development of the individuals.”

The new Apprenticeships have allowed Heligan to develop Commis Chefs, Hospitality Supervisors, Front of House Supervisors and Retail Supervisors. Growing its own newly qualified Commis Chefs has helped future-proof the business at a time when skills shortages make recruitment difficult.

More qualified Chefs means the business has been able to open new food outlets on site, improving service and profitability. The Supervisor Apprentices are now running these outlets which Ramon comments has; “greatly improved feelings of ownership, responsibility and efficiency”.

When asked his opinion on the role Apprenticeships play within business and the Cornish economy, Ramon said: “We believe all employers should run an Apprenticeship scheme.

“We are proud that we have been able to give existing staff the opportunity to train and boost their career. Heligan has become an even better place to work because of its commitment to Apprenticeships. We believe we are an example of how businesses and learners all benefit from a well-run Apprenticeship programme and I have loved seeing all of our learner’s progress, improve and grow during their time with us.”


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