A group of catering students from Yorkshire are hoping to taste success in their chosen career after gaining valuable knowledge and new skills during a two-week Turing Scheme trip to Saint Lucia.
Visits to Hotel Chocolat and Castries Market were among the cultural experiences on the menu for learners from DN Colleges Group, alongside a culinary tour and work placement sessions, during their time on the tropical island, organised in partnership with The Caribbean Elective.
In addition, the students visited a local farm to learn about all the aspects of agriculture, witnessed a masterclass hosted by Chef Orlando, one of the Caribbean’s top chefs, and took part in a competition at the 5-star Sandals Grande Hotel Resort.
The group of 10 students were the first of eight cohorts heading out to Saint Lucia, Finland, Indonesia, and the United States to further their vocational studies during the 2022 to 2023 academic year after DN Colleges Group secured funding through The Turing Scheme.
Comprised of Doncaster College and North Lindsey College, the group was awarded more than £300,000 by the UK government’s international education programme to send over 100 students and accompanying staff on the potentially life-changing trips.
Linda Sykes, international coordinator, said: “Investing in international mobility enables us to support our students by broadening their horizons, boosting employability, and developing their cultural awareness.
“This second year of funding will help us to drive forward our partnerships with international organisations and continue building on the successful activities that took place in our 2021 to 2022 project. Raising the aspirations of learners from our communities is a key local challenge and the Turing Scheme is really helping us to achieve that.”
A great working environment
Aaron, an 18-year-old professional patisserie and confectionery student who went on the Saint Lucia trip, said: “It’s the most fun I’ve had cooking anywhere. I feel more confident, and it has opened my mind to working abroad in the future. Everyone was so nice and friendly. It was a great working environment, and you could have a nice conversation. Culturally it is very different to the UK, the cooking is laid back and not rushed.
“My favourite part of the trip was the day we spent working alongside June at June’s Baking Company. There were lots of chefs working and everything was made to order. We were shown specific dishes that were extremely important to the island. We prepared and cooked saltfish and breadfruit croquettes and a sour orange lemonade. We also got to try everything!”
Course Leader and accompanying tutor, Simon Barton, said: “We had the absolute privilege to taste local produce and witness a cookery masterclass from the brilliant Chef Orlando at Orlando’s restaurant. We also met local suppliers, chefs and even the town mayor. The students were buzzing with ideas of Caribbean food all the way back to base.
“Whilst working in the Sandals Grande, our students were based throughout the different themed restaurants. They made a range of products from samosas to Sushi, Italian sauces, and desserts. The hotel was stunning – and huge. Walking from one side to the other to check on the students was a task.
“One of the cultural days was spent visiting the markets in Saint Lucia, with an array of exotic fruits and vegetables, spices, herbs and locally made produce. Then we were looked after by the awesome June’s. We spent our lunch being fed some brilliant fresh and local dishes whilst sat under a mango tree, washing it down with a cool tamarind drink made by the students in the sun!”
Liam Marsh, international placement supervisor at DN Colleges Group, said: “Many of our students have never owned a passport, or even travelled outside of the local area, so the impact of the Turing Scheme for us is huge. If the Turing Scheme funding wasn’t there, many of our students simply couldn’t afford to access these incredible opportunities.
“These experiences allow our students to gain skills that will bring a new perspective to their work, enhance their CV’s, and really help them stand out from the crowd. We work closely with our partners, Caribbean Elective, to reflect the career development aims of individual participants. These opportunities don’t come around every day.”
Whilst on their placement, the staff and students visited The Lady Gordon Opportunity Centre in Saint Lucia, leaving them with some donations from the UK.
Accompanying tutor Simon, said: “We left them with some gifts, but they gave us so much more: inspiration, humbleness, and a new perspective on life. We will never forget those happy little faces.”
The catering department are now planning to host a themed evening in Doncaster College’s student-led Waterfront Restaurant, allowing the students to put into practice the new skills, ingredients, flavours, and techniques they learned in the Caribbean, whilst also raising money for good causes in Saint Lucia.
Find out more about FE/VET funding opportunities with the Turing Scheme