There are few people in life that you meet that end up having a massive impact on your life, learning and ability to grow into the young adult you want to be. Arana Leagues Club is that place of employment where management understands the need to develop and train young local students into the adults of tomorrow.
Potential employees are hand selected from the local high school and moulded and modelled in a way that suits the culture and performance of the business, and in return, receive vital life lessons and career opportunities whilst gaining invaluable skills.
Commencing the program in 2008, Arana Leagues Club has been a local champion for school based traineeships in the area having taken on board 16-20 trainees every year subsequent. Partnering with just one school, Ferny Grove State High School, the club and its students, have a completion rate of 97 per cent, rising to 100 per cent in the last three years, well and truly bucking the state average of less than 50 per cent.
Club Manager Joe Kelly can’t speak more highly of the benefits, “the school based trainee program is now an integral part of our recruitment and succession planning strategies. It is the longest interview a prospective employee will ever undertake and has resulted in post traineeship employment being very successful in terms of cultural fit, technical skills and tenure.”
Of the 121 staff employed at the dub, 61 per cent of the front of house staff are current or former school based trainees, with trainees from every intake still working at the venue. The club has secured 8-10 full time employees out of the traineeships, with all students trained across al’ areas of the venue, from food and beverage, reception, marketing and more.
The club now even has some former trainees filtering into management positions, such as duty managers, assistant accountants, marketing and functions. Further, nine of the eleven internal club team leaders are former school based trainees, leading by example and encouraging further participation and completion of the program.
This means that the turnover rate for staff is extremely low with last year’s turnover hovering around 17 per cent — much lower than the industry average. This has resulted in the club rarely hiring new front of house staff, and ensuring consistency across all areas of the business.
Starting with a school information night, the club then seeks applications and conducts interviews with each student, usually selecting about half from the number of applicants. The main qualities the club looks for is personality, cultural fit and of course, whether they believe the trainee will complete the course.
The course requires 380 hours a year in order to complete and the club ensures that students are rostered operationally so that they experience busy nights and weekends to truly get a taste for what the club can do and how they can thrive in a busy, fast paced environment.
By using trainees during busy periods and creating stimulating work, rather than having students stand around and conduct menial tasks such as polish cutlery or wipe benches, some students have completed up to 600 hours given their enjoyment of the club’s operations and opportunities to learn. This is why the club believes completion and retention rates are so high — because students are given real responsibility, feel a part of the action and are witnessing the full extent of how the club operates and what it can produce. Also, as all trainees come from the same school, they know their peers, so there is some level of familiarity about the experience, whilst working in an adult environment.
“Employees have a sense of pride in the club. Since the renovation, our facilities and infrastructure is inspiring, the food is exceptional and as a result, the complaints are minimal. It is therefore easy for staff to enjoy working here and be enthusiastic about working hard,” Joe reflects.
“School based traineeships have a range of operational benefits too,” Joe says. They are a great way to recruit and train the people you want and get young people to stay at the venue.”
However, staff morale and culture remain at the forefront of club manager Joe Kelly’s mind as he reviews the potential trainees each year. Whilst he expects a lot from his staff in terms of service excellence and productivity, he is mindful of the need to incentivise and give back to employees by way of a health and well being program which includes flu shots and assistance with completing tax returns, having guest speakers at staff meetings and facilitating social events throughout the calendar year.
Further, there are various awards the club offers, including Trainee of the Year, Customer Service Excellence and Most Improved to encourage greater productivity and some healthy competition amongst staff to continue to strive for excellence.
Joe comments that culture is often something difficult to describe – that it is a feeling or atmosphere rather than something tangible. Pondering for a moment, he cites the dub culture as having high service standards, exceptional camaraderie between employees, a strong rapport with members and efficiency — all leading to improved performance and excellent feedback from customers about the quality of customer service.
“Community clubs are an excellent place to start your first job. The industry has a great social vibe that fosters social collisions across a broad range of demographics, has a welcoming feel and creates that sense of belonging in the local community,” Joe comments.
Speaking highly of the programs success, Joe believes the traineeships have been so successful given the strength of relationships with all stakeholders — from continuity and professionalism by the school coordinator,
Club Training Australia and then the students’ willingness to learn, work hard and achieve mutually beneficial results.
Club Training Australia’s general manager Aaron Bray agrees, commenting:
“We are fortunate to work with venues like Arana Leagues Club, a venue that is truly dedicated to the success of their school based program. Arana Leagues Club from day one has been able to see the benefits of what a school based traineeship program can bring to not only their venue but also to their community. Since the program started eight years ago, Club Training Australia has been able to see the results of the program first hand. Not only are the results visible within the club itself but also within the students, you can see an increase in their confidence, a new sense of purpose and also the realisation that really can do anything. We are dedicated to assisting venues in developing successful school based programs and we will continue to work closely with Arana Leagues Club in continuing their school based program future success.”
With the added benefit of Government incentives to commence, complete and retain school students, Arana Leagues Club is able to ensure the highest standard of training and boost local jobs in the area.
The school based traineeships have lead many local students to build a career in club land, to study hospitality and hotel management at University and enjoy part time or casual employment at the club whilst they undertake further study. The club has even inspired some trainees to change the direction and focus of their tertiary studies, given their experience at the club. Speaking on qualifications, Aaron Bray adds,
“Arana Leagues Club understands that the students they place within their venue to complete a school based traineeship are the future of the club and you can see that throughout the venues strategic plan, with trainees being a key pillar to their future success. The club has even gone a step further and provided the trainees they have secured to stay on with the venue the opportunity to up-skill and complete a Certificate IV or Diploma in Hospitality. By continuing to educate their trainees beyond the completion of their traineeship, Arana Leagues Club is training the future leaders of the hospitality industry.”
Finally Joe remarks, “be choosy”.
“By conducting significant interview processes to choose the right people for the club, retention is secured, consistency developed, customer service standards remain high and profitability is achieved.”
One visit to Arana Leagues Club and you can immediately sense the dub is a well-oiled machine. From the unconventional club menu offering shish kebabs, lychee and crab salad and beef cheeks, to the exceptional standard of the décor and facilities and the smiles on employee faces, this is clearly a thriving business that is an employer of choice.
Written by Sarah Ramsay – Clubs Queensland