Students at Newcastle College were given a unique opportunity to serve Prime Minister Boris Johnson at last month’s CBI National Conference.

The high-profile event, held at Port of Tyne in South Shields, was catered for by the college’s Hospitality Department, giving eight students the chance to gain real work experience in catering and events.

The students, all currently studying Level 2 and Level 3 courses at the College, were tasked with providing a breakfast service and light lunch to the 230 invited guests and VIPs, which included local leaders such as CEO of NCG Liz Bromley, business ministers and the last-minute addition of the Prime Minister as Keynote Speaker.

Matthew Knox, currently studying the first year of a Level 2 Professional Cookery course at Newcastle College said: “I volunteered for the event to get more experience as I’m not usually very outgoing and wanted to develop my social skills. It was a different environment than what I’m used to, especially with ministers there, but it was fun and I felt confident and comfortable doing a front of house role.

“I’m only 11 weeks into my course and alongside my lessons I’ve already been given this opportunity, catered Eagles basketball home games and have work experience at Gino D’ACampo’s restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside so I really enjoy that side of it and experiencing what it’s really like to be a chef.”

Experience of real working environments is an important part of learning at Newcastle College and Head of Curriculum Craig Cowan said the CBI Conference was a great example of adapting to event conditions. He said: “The hospitality and events industries are busy, and you often need to work under pressure, so it’s important that we prepare our learners for that.

“Catering for the CBI Conference was a fantastic opportunity for students to experience working a large-scale event with high-profile guests. They also adapted really well to working in a new environment, as the event was held outside rather than a traditional kitchen that our learners are accustomed to.

“All of the students showed real commitment and enthusiasm, volunteering for a 4.30am start to prepare for the event and they all gained a really good understanding of what it takes to succeed in the industry. They were fantastic working under pressure and it was a great success, they were excellent ambassadors for Newcastle College and our hospitality department.”

The CBI National Conference is the UK’s biggest annual business event, welcoming leading figures from government and industry to discuss the role of business in the economy.

Gemma Hagan, Events Manager at CBI acknowledged the efforts of the students and the value of real work experience, commenting: “We thought this would be a great opportunity to give the students an experience of a fast-paced, real-life event.  We have received such positive feedback from the delegates.  Thank you so much for your contribution.  I hope the students found the experience valuable.”