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Driving Change: The Caterer People Summit

Mark Costello, Principal at Aurora Foxes, joined our Hilton partners to talk at The Caterer People Summit in London last week. The Caterer is the leading multimedia brand for the UK hospitality industry and the event was attended by around 90 delegates.

The panel event, chaired by Jungmin Seo of The Caterer was called Embracing diversity: Employing people with disabilities.

Jungmin had previously attended the Hilton Breaking Barriers workshop in October and was impressed with the work Hilton and Aurora Foxes are doing to encourage greater career opportunities for those with a learning disability, so Mark was invited to speak at their event.

The panel put a spotlight on Hilton and Foxes’ partnership for a new audience. It’s a partnership that’s been growing for over eight years now. Hilton initially offered work placements which led to employment opportunities, with our first ever graduate employed by Hilton still working at Hilton Birmingham Metropole. This year has seen ten placements across the country, with students having trials in Southampton, Bristol and London including the iconic Waldorf hotel.

Mark’s passionate about changing perceptions about employing people with a learning disability. He spoke about how Foxes:

  • Work with a team of specialists to support our students to become ‘work ready, life ready’.
  • How working closely with industry professionals is vital to ensuring our curriculum addresses the needs of the hospitality sector.
  • How the Hilton partnership has grown to include increased work placements, career opportunities, CPD opportunities for staff, mock interviews as well as the funding of our Flying Fox catering van, to give our students a different experience of hospitality.
  • How Foxes support partnering hotels to make a welcoming hotel environment for students and advises on what people should be aware of during the hiring and onboarding process.

Mark Costello of Aurora Foxes  at the Caterer People Summit 2024

There are plenty of examples to suggest hiring people with learning disabilities can really enhance the workforce, but Mark spoke about why the disability employment gap is still so prominent:

  • Fear – employers may feel uncertain about accommodating disabilities properly.
  • Lack of understanding – many employers may not fully understand or appreciate the capabilities of individuals with learning disabilities, leading them to underestimate their potential contributions.
  • Limited resources – employers might lack the resources or support needed to effectively integrate individuals with learning disabilities

An important point he made is that it's not anyone’s challenge alone, and by working closely with partners such as DS WorkFit and other supported employment agencies, as well as parents and families, many of these barriers can be overcome.

Key takeaways from the session were:

  • The benefits of embracing inclusivity
  • How to adapt your hiring process to instill confidence in applicants with a learning disability
  • How to carve out relevant roles and put reasonable adjustments in place to ensure new recruits gain the most from their employment.