Blue Cube Travel – Apprentice Programme

Nurturing the next generation of business travel consultants

Blue Cube Travel specialises in high-touch offline executive travel services, but as the business grew, recruiting consultants with the right skill-set and experience to provide this type of top level personal service was
becoming increasingly difficult. At the same time, the company’s founders and co-directors are passionate about giving young people career opportunities in the local community.

In 2016 Blue Cube therefore launched its Apprentice Programme in conjunction with Way2Work, a specialist local apprentice training provider based in Richmond. The TMC has already hired five apprentices so far.

Mel Phaure, Director of Blue Cube Travel, who mentors the apprentices, explains: “It was becoming very difficult to find operations staff with the right level of expertise for our business. A lot of TMCs are focussing on delivering service via technology, which means that basic operations skills are disappearing. We won’t employ a new member of staff just to fill a vacancy and it was taking us up to two years to find the right person. At the same time, we firmly believe that young people are our future and we are passionate about supporting career opportunities in our local community. That led us to follow a path whereby we find and train our own staff from scratch as they are the future of our business. The programme is definitely not a form of cheap labour, it’s a major investment by Blue Cube.”

“We firmly believe that young people are our future and we are passionate about supporting career opportunities in our local community”

Apprentices join the company age 16 straight from school or after a year or two in employment. Training is backed with NVQ level 2-7 qualifications. The first year is structured around learning basic travel
industry knowledge – studying a map of Europe, airports, hotels, airlines, seat pitches.

“We are providing concierge-style services to our clients, so it’s very important that our apprentices develop exceptional product knowledge,” says Mel. “The first thing we do is sit them in a room with a map of the
world and get them to learn it – capital cities, airports, time zones. These are the building blocks of a good travel agent of the future.”

“Time zones are very important for us, for example, because we handle online check-ins personally for our clients. We also send our apprentices to visit 5-star hotels, go airside at Heathrow, and sit in a first-class airline seat, so they have first experience of what they are booking for a client,” she explains.

Initially Blue Cube recruited apprentices to nurture new staff as reservations consultants. However, if, after training, any of them feel more suited to another department, such as finance or account management, they have the opportunity to switch roles.

Encouraging young people into the industry also stems from Mel Phaure’s own journey into travel, as well as that of co-founder Kenny Stirling.

“I started in travel on a YTS scheme when I was 16 years old, and Kenny worked for Lunn Poly from aged 16,” says Mel. “Apprentice schemes worked for us personally and set us on our career paths, so that is another reason why we are so keen to encourage young people today.

“We are incredibly proud of our five young members of staff who joined us as apprentices. It has been very rewarding to see them develop professionally and personally during their time here. Two of them are even on the GTMC’s Next Generation Panel.”

Way2Work’s Lee Barbieri, Assessor and Barri Ghai, Centre Manager are full of praise for Blue Cube, saying: “We can see why every apprentice loves working at Blue Cube. The company’s approach is very rounded; it is nurturing yet promotes independence and resilience building.

“Without exception, the managers and directors take a real personal interest in ensuring the apprentices are well supported. On top of professional support, these young people also benefit from life coaching, helping them develop personally, problem solve and deal with life’s challenges.

“We conduct regular reviews with the apprentices and they always give Blue Cube 10 out of 10 for job satisfaction,” add Lee and Barri. “Blue Cube is also inclusive and promotes flexible working. One apprentice was given flexible hours to practice his faith; another had advice on managing personal budgets. The directors also actively seek to reward staff. When apprentices have completed coursework ahead of target, Blue Cube is quick to review pay scales, for example.

Lee and Barri sum up: “Way2Work are very grateful that an innovative and forward thinking local business has embraced the challenge and opportunity to recruit young people from within our borough and provide them with secure and fulfilling employment opportunities”

“Blue Cube Travel’s approach is very rounded; it is nurturing yet promotes independence and resilience building,” Way 2 Work

Introducing Blue Cube Travel’s apprentices…

Amber Richards
“I joined the apprentice programme in October 2016 and am now qualified as a travel consultant. I left school at 16 and worked in a hairdressing for a couple of years, but joining Blue Cube was the best decision for me. The training is very well structured and the knowledge I have gained, assisting clients and learning our online tools has built my confidence in so many ways. Everyone here is very supportive – it’s like one big family. They are also very flexible as I can switch my hours if I need to drop my brother at school. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me here.”

Emi Blini
Emi Blini: “Deciding to leave sixth form half way through my first year was a hard decision to make at 16 years old. I was anxious and didn’t know what to expect when I joined Blue Cube, but was welcomed with open arms by people who were willing to help me learn. I have become so much more knowledgeable and confident. I’m currently working in the reservations department doing check-ins and refunds and I am also in the process of learning how to book train tickets. I have really enjoyed working here so far and am looking forward to the future with Blue Cube.”

Jade Reid
Jade Reid: “Our training covers all aspects of the business so after I had completed my apprenticeship, I realised that I didn’t enjoy being a travel consultant, but preferred to work on the finance and invoicing side. In fact, I love doing hotel billbacks! What’s so great about Blue Cube is that they gave me the flexibility to change to a different role. I joined as an apprentice in October 2016 and am now a Finance Assistant. The management has been so supportive – for example we were set coursework by Way2Work during our apprentice programme which took two hours per day, but Blue Cube gave us time to complete this during office hours”

Fezlat M’houmadi
“I recently completed a Diploma in Travel & Tourism Level 3 at college. I had no idea where to go next until Blue Cube Travel offered me a place on their apprentice programme. I’ve only been here a month but have learnt so much already. Everyone here is so welcoming and I already feel very comfortable here. Blue Cube Travel have enjoyable ways of helping me learn. For example, a three-hour Sabre course used visual learning aids which really helped me gain knowledge of how to use Sabre. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Ethan Field
“I was very nervous about entering the corporate workplace straight from school at 16, but Blue Cube made me feel comfortable and have given me support whenever I needed it. I have learnt so much over the last eight months. I started in reservations but have moved into account management as I felt this suited me better. Everyone is also very sociable which makes it easy to fit in. I love the fact that, despite my young age, Blue Cube trusts in me and has given me a lot of responsibility. I have enjoyed every minute here so far and am looking forward too many more.”