Fast Track: Called to the bar

There was a time when no self-respecting graduate would contemplate a career with a brewery. Not any longer, reports Michael Greenwood
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The Independent Culture
A POLITICIAN stood up in a London bar last week and told young people they should spend more time in pubs. He meant they should make a career of it.

Lord Donoughue was launching a government-backed campaign to promote careers in the licensed retail trade - pub and bars. The Food and Drinks Minister said that pub retailing was a pounds 22bn industry that needed a high quality, stable, well-trained workforce.

Many of the large breweries run graduate schemes which offer excellent opportunities in areas like marketing, finance or IT.

Competition for these places is high and so are the financial rewards, but many graduates, like Kate Moorby, have decided to go straight into the front end of pub retailing.

Kate studied fine art and art history at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Now 29, she is General Manager of All Bar One in Chiswick, in charge of 23 staff.

Kate started with All Bar One as Assistant Manager in their Sheffield branch after working for Planet Hollywood in London. She expected some graduates to sneer at a career in licensed retailing because they thought it was a job for old men who liked to stand at the bar jangling their keys.

She said: "You would imagine my graduate peers might look down on me for working in a pub, but far from it. When they look at what you do, they realise you are in management and are actually running a business.

"The beauty is that many pubs are owned by huge corporations and you can diversify into any number of areas from human resources to marketing. I think it's a great job in an ever expanding market. And the money helps - it is just as well paid as many graduate jobs, if not better."

Tom Bentley, 26, graduated in geography from Durham University. Now he is landlord of the Cartoonist Pub in the city of London. He said many of his friends from Durham now work near his pub and they are fascinated by the thought of one of their friends running a pub. He said: "I have six friends I studied with at Durham who work in the City. They come to my pub and they are dying to get behind the bar and serve some drinks.

"I remember my family were sceptical at first but now they have seen how much I have done with the place. I wouldn't enjoy working behind a desk and there is so much I can do here. I don't have any plans to move at the moment but for graduates in the big breweries there is the structure to move through to management.

"I joined Scottish and Newcastle breweries a few months after graduating. I had muddled about with other jobs but working in a pub was what I knew from my time at university. My partner Kas had also worked in bars while she was studying French and Spanish at Thames Valley University so she joined me on a 10-week management course run by the brewery. We began by working on the London relief circuit covering for different landlords when they went on holiday, now we run The Cartoonist and its great fun."

Marie-Rose Sheldon of Stafford College, which runs a BA honours degree in Licensed Retail Management said the industry and its customers are changing and graduates can bring the skills to deal with those changes.

"People are becoming repertoire drinkers, they don't consume the same things throughout the week. You might like Caffrey's for example but you won't drink it seven days a week. On Sunday you may go out and have wine with some pasta. In the retail licensed industry at the moment there are three key areas, food, families and female drinkers."

Rod Smith, Human Resources Manager of Scottish and Newcastle Retail, offers 12-month work placements to students on licensed retailing courses run at institutions like Stafford College and the University of Ulster. He said: "The students get a thorough grounding in everything from the basics of pulling a pint through to the end of their placement where they will be acting as assistant managers.

"People who would never have thought of making a career in the industry are finding it has a lot to offer - 10 per cent of people we have recruited into pub management over the last two years have been to university.

"We still have the community pubs but with the modern brands like the Rat and Parrot, the breweries have recognised there is a need to be market led and to do that we need the skills that graduates can bring.

"It is becoming more and more professional, it is a proper job and a proper career. Running a pub is no longer the myth that you see in Coronation Street or Eastenders. No longer is there a glass ceiling of being a landlord, graduates can move into areas like training and marketing. What we are saying is you don't have to run a pub for life but it is a good place to start."

As part of the initiative to bring more professionals to the licensed industry, the British Institute of Innkeeping, has set up a web site listing career opportunities. Packed with contacts it details which breweries and pubs offer work placements and full time employment.

Web address: Http://www.barzone.co.uk

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