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Career in hospitality wins over rugby and landscaping

Career in hospitality wins over rugby and landscape gardening for scholarship winner

Like many, Sam Cunningham only got into hospitality for some extra income and never thought it would lead to a long term career option. In fact at that time he had just completed a Degree in Landscape Architecture and was also playing semi-professional rugby overseas.

But six months into working for the Blankenberge Belgian Beer Cafe in Takapuna Auckland, he knew that this was the industry for him. So much so that he made the decision to give up his dreams for rugby, forgo his Degree and concentrate fully on pursuing a career in hospitality.

Sam’s sudden career change was confirmed to him as the right one when in October this year he won the prestigious 2013 Stella Artois Draught Master Competition for NZ, a title that the Blankenberge Cafe had been trying to win for the last 10 years.

“Sam possesses an unassuming but positive demeanour that people like and respect in leaders. He’s one of those people you know will be very successful and an industry front-runner” says Kevin Schwass, Blankenberge Cafe proprietor.

Now to add to his successful year, Sam is one of the eight winners announced for the Hospitality NZ/SKY Future Leader Scholarships. The scholarships have a value of up to $3000 each, and include $2000 towards fees for studying the National Diploma in Hospitality Level 5 (Operational Management), and up to $1000 reimbursement of costs to attend the Future Leaders Day in 2014.

Spokesperson Sara Tucker, Deputy Chief Executive of Hospitality NZ (HNZ), commented that the scholarships were an excellent example of working together with their long term partner SKY TV to help address the skill shortage within the hospitality industry.

“It’s great to see that there is this level of interest from the next generation wanting to make a career in hospitality and we are proud to be able to support their aspirations. Given the passion that all the applicants have displayed and their genuine desire to up-skill themselves, I think that we can be confident that the industry is going to be well supplied with some incredible talent and leaders to take us forward.” Sara says.

The scholarship applicants represented the breadth of the hospitality industry, by currently working in Bars, Restaurants, Accommodation, Events Centres, Retail Outlets and Catering. The scholarships were open to anyone working in the hospitality industry and not restricted to HNZ members’ businesses.

“The number of entries received was fantastic for the first year of the scholarships being offered, but it was the outstanding quality of the candidates that really stood out for me” says Grant McKenzie GM for SKY Business.

This observation was confirmed by the judges who said that selecting the winners was a difficult process because of the consistently high quality across all of the candidates. But in the end, it came down to how they scored in the four following areas:

Firstly, they had to have demonstrated strong leadership potential in their workplace by inspiring the people around them
Have demonstrated a strong progression and commitment within their hospitality career to date
Have an ability to ‘make things happen’ within a hospitality environment
Has a clear idea about what they hope to achieve and how they would contribute to the hospitality industry.
While all of the applicants met some of the above criteria, the final eight winners were selected based on having the highest overall scores.

Congratulations to the 2013 Hospitality NZ/SKY Future Leader Scholarships winners:

Adrian Vruink The Northern Club, Auckland

Alicia Watson - Rosebank Lodge, Balclutha
Amy Billaney -Village Accommodation Group, Wellington
Byron Mann - Elevate Bar & Function Centre, Christchurch
Marianne Kirkham - The Grand Mercure Resort, Nelson
Mellissa Voorend - Smith & McKenzie Chophouse (Phoenix Group),Hamilton
Rosie Manders -The Riverhead, Auckland
Samuel Cunningham - Burn Brae Group, Auckland


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