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Ross Ferguson goes over and above to help HITZ learners thrive

Ross Ferguson goes over and above to help HITZ learners thrive

Sometimes all a young person needs in life is a second chance, and someone who believes in them, to find a positive pathway – a fact very much recognised by Ross Ferguson.

Ross is the general manager at the Shepperton location of the Holiday Inn hotel chain and in recent times has gone over and above to make sure, in conjunction with Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme, that young people in his area get those opportunities.

Working with London Irish on Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, Ross and the Holiday Inn offered every student on the programme the chance to gain valuable work experience at the hotel.

Many of the students were individuals who had struggled at school and had low self-confidence, but all seized the opportunity and such was the transformation that Ross took home the HITZ Champion Award back in October.

He said: “It was very rewarding to pick up the award and it’s not for me really, it’s for my staff because they’re the ones that have done the majority of the work with the learners that have come in.

“We had 60 staff but for the hotel it’s wonderful, I don’t think the hotel’s ever won an award!

“It’s not really about that though, it’s about hopefully getting young people into employment and making sure their self-esteem is raised a bit, that’s what’s most important.

“We’ve given up our time to help others and that’s the most rewarding part, they’re all very worthy of getting that help because they’ve got a lot to offer.”

HITZ, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, with the help of its funders Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief, works with more than 2,000 14-18 year olds across England every year, and is delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional member rugby clubs.

This meant at the Holiday Inn in Shepperton the students were able to work in every department, being mentored by staff enabling them to learn first-hand from experts in their field.

The practical hands-on work experience took learners out of their comfort zones and tested them in real-life situations.

As well as supporting all of the students’ work experience, Ross helped a student gain an apprenticeship and two more jobs at other hotels.

Ross provided one student the opportunity to work in the kitchen and was so impressed that he offered him a job.

Unfortunately, he was unable to accept the offer due to travel issues, so Ross took it upon himself to speak to a hotel nearer the learner and he was offered an apprenticeship.

To celebrate the end of the year, Ross helped the learners organise a lunch where parents and sponsors were treated to a three-course meal.

He also spoilt the learners by putting them up in the hotel for the night so they could experience something they never had before.

Ross continued: “We’ve got big plans going forward. We’re working with London Irish at the moment but we’re working with Harlequins in future so there’s two clubs around.

“There’s 30 students on the London Irish programme and we hope to get all 30 in because the more we can get in the more skills they’ll learn, even if it’s just talking to members of the public.

“They’ll talk to the public in every job that they do so if we can give them that they’ll go on to bigger and better things.

“Many of these youngsters have had a lot of challenges in their life and they’re overcoming it. These youngsters have got a lot to offer society.”

The HITZ programme, delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, uses rugby’s strong core values to improve life and employability skills for disadvantaged young people, underpinning success in education, life and work. See @HITZrugby for more information.

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