Pizza Express success stories: James & Mario
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When James Lakey failed Sixth Form and dropped out of college, he wasn’t sure which direction his life was going in but a chance meeting at work led him on the apprenticeship path and he hasn’t looked back.
James, 22, is now a back of house trainer at PizzaExpress in Chippenham. “Before the apprenticeship, I was floundering but the scheme put me back on track,” he explains. “The route was an obvious one for me as it is an on-the-job training opportunity, one that is easy to commit to and has massive rewards.”
He dropped out of college after realising his course wouldn’t provide him with the future he wanted, but he has now found a new lease on life, being able to guide others at work and better himself with additional achievements and qualifications.
James completed a Kitchen Services Level 2 qualification before working his way up to kitchen manager. He then completed his Level 2 Team Leader and is now studying for a Level 3 Management qualification.
With his new knowledge and skills, he is now heavily involved in supporting many restaurants in the group, even being asked to help out at the St Ives site last summer to run the kitchen for a short while. He has also composed mock senior examinations which led to employees passing the real thing and piloted quality and safety audits in five restaurants which enabled them to pass the real audits, all with marks of over 90%.
“I feel everyone deserves the options I had and it honours me that I can provide some training to advance people as far as they can,” he says.
“PizzaExpress is now my second home, my colleagues are my friends and it makes work seem like socialising. There are ups and downs but tomorrow is always another day.”
James is full of praise for both his manager and his Lifetime Regional Trainer, Mike Bird. “My manager has supported me massively, encouraging me from trainee to pizzaiolo to senior pizzaiolo and finally to back of house trainer.
“Mike has been with me from the start, always there to provide me with support, answers and advice. Many of my achievements have been with his voice of reason and I can't thank him enough.
“I really think the one-to-one training dwarfs classroom training. It's easy to commit to and feels more personal, making it more rewarding when I achieve and provides the drive to succeed when I fail.”
For now, James is content to continue striving for all the qualifications and promotion he can achieve and will continue to recommend the apprenticeship scheme to co-workers as he believes they deserve the same options as he was given.
Since completing his Level 3 Hospitality Leadership and Supervision apprenticeship, Mario Ricardo Tavares Campos has been promoted to senior pizzaiolo at PizzaExpress in Dorchester.
In addition to learning new things about the kitchen, Mario has also improved his English and Maths skills significantly and even discovered a new love of Maths!
“My manager has been very supportive, always helping me to find a convenient time to fit work around my rotas and also helping me to map out my career path,” he explains.
“My next goal is to become a trainer and improve my English, Maths and management skills even more. Doing an apprenticeship will stand me in good stead for my future.
“I have also recommended the courses to my friends and to my new kitchen members because it is such a good qualification.”
Mario completed a Level 2 Kitchen Service course prior to doing his Level 3 qualification.
If you are interested in working for Pizza Express, or doing an Apprenticeship with them, see their careers website here.