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Cooking a dream

FAMOUS FIVE: Councillor Mike Whitby (from left) Vivienne Lambert-Blackwood, Kajans project manager; Derek Douglas, Kajans chairman; Hermin McIntosh Kajans director, and Lord Hill

A PIONEERING school due to open in Birmingham, which will help students to earn while they learn has won praise from schools minister Lord Hill.

He accorded accolades at a reception for the school at Aston Villa Football Club – another of the project’s supporters.

Kajan’s Hospitality & Catering Studio College is due to open next year September, will be offering 14 to 19-year-olds the chance to study for qualifications while having the opportunity of paid work with local employers.

Praising the project, Lord Hill said: “We have far too many young people coming out of schools without the skills that employers are looking for. A school like this offers them an excellent academic education but also practical employment to make them more ready for the world of work.”

He called the Kajans scheme, run by Aston-based Kajans Women’s Enterprise, a ‘flagbearer’ among studio schools, which so far number around 16 across the UK. This figure is expected to be doubled by this time next year.

Studio schools are set up with the backing of employees and are a key part of the Government’s drive to ensure the education system gives school leavers the skills that business needs to grow and prosper.

The Kajans school, which will be based in Hockley, will take its first 90 pupils in September 2013, offering a total of 300 places when the school is fully up and running.

Potential student Kasai Parchment, aged 15, was at the reception with his mum Lorna Turner. He said: “I really love cooking and I like football. This kind of school just sounds right for me because it puts a lot of emphasis on helping students prepare for the real world. I’m excited about being one of its first students.”

Support

Hermin McIntosh, Kajans executive director, thanked people for the support they had given to the Kajans vision – from local companies such as Cleone Foods, run by Wade Lyn, to the trustees such as Bishop Wilton Powell, Camille Ade-John, Errol Duncan and Monica Coke, and the school’s project manager Michael Ford.

She also thanked supporters Councillor Mike Whitby, the former leader of Birmingham City Council and ‘local champions’ Dennis Brown and Delores Pinkney.
“We have a mega responsibility to deliver something that is unique and that is needed in this area,” she said. “It offers an opportunity to a whole generation of young people.”

Whitby told of how he supported the Kajans team when they made an appearance in Manchester at the 2011 Conservative Party Conference. They were one of nine entrepreneurial initiatives to win a place at the conference’s Start-Up Hub, which has won the full attention of Prime Minister David Cameron.

“To get the Prime Minister on to the stand took some doing, but 12 months down the line Lord Hill is endorsing the initiative,” said Whitby.

Whitby said Caribbean cuisine was “one of Birmingham’s best kept secrets” and it was time non-Caribbeans enjoyed it in the way thousands of Bangladeshi restaurants have flourished."

While Alison Plant, head of sponsorship and hospitality at Aston Villa Football Club, said: “Aston Villa has a long tradition of working with the community and we are excited to be involved in this journey with Kajans.

“We are one of the biggest providers of hospitality in the Midlands and we are only as good as the people we work with. We would like to see some of the young people from Kajans working with us in the future.”

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