This morning, representatives of the Ballina RSL and staff and students at Ballina Coast High School came together to announce the ‘Love for Food’ program and sign an MOU formalising the hospitality training connection between the club and the school.

The new initiative includes workplace partnerships and a scholarship to support targeted students, as well as mentor partnerships.

Bill Coulter, CEO of the Ballina RSL Club, said, ‘We’d like to celebrate a great opportunity for us to partner with Ballina Coast High School with this program, to educate hospitality students and offer them some fantastic support from our experienced chefs and staff at the Ballina RSL Club.

‘They’ve got some wonderful students here, and we hope to support their education in hospitality,’ said Mr Coulter.

The Ballina RSL is one of the largest employers in the region, with over 100 staff, serving members, guests, and the wider community for nearly 70 years.

Ballina Coast High School President Janeen Silcock thanked the club for establishing a strong hospitality industry in the region which would lead to increased employment and tourism opportunities, helping to highlight the wonderful attributes of the area.

Ms Silcock said she was really excited about the new opportunities for BCHS students.

‘This ensures our young people will have a future in hospitality,’ she said. ‘We have the most amazing facilities at this school, and we offer Hospitality through Year 11 and 12. This partnership will be quite a powerful way to unite our students with the real world and providing an authentic learning experience.’

Additional support needed

Bill Coulter said, ‘Our industry is one of the largest growing sectors and in recent times, it has been a struggle to get younger people into working in the hospitality industry.

‘We are delighted to have a strong connection with our local high schools to support their students wishing to enter the industry,’ he said.

Ballina RSL Club and Ballina Coast High School have already developed a Hospitality Scholarship Programme and a mentoring program for local hospitality students.

Ballina RSL Executive Chef Stephen Mills said the new ‘Love for Food’ program was ‘about creating a link between our workplace, which is a great workplace, to the school kids coming through the cooking program here.

‘They’ll get insights into the environment of a commercial kitchen, and working alongside a large brigade of chefs,’ he said. ‘It will give them a really good insight into the industry.’

From the club’s point of view, Mr Mills said, ‘This will give us some synergy with the school and build on that by encouraging more kids to come into the industry, and see how exciting it can be.’

Nurturing home grown talent with international borders closed

Since COVID, Stephen Mills says things have got busier and busier, ‘and we’re looking for more team players to come on board,’ especially with limits now on international chefs coming into Australia. ‘So, we’re looking at home now and trying to nurture the next generation.’

The Love for Food program will explore opportunities in all areas of the club from the kitchen, functions, and events, purchasing, retail, and business services.

One of the 80 hospitality students involved with the program is Tyler Lacey from Year 11.

‘I love cooking, it makes me feel nice,’ he told The Echo. ‘I love doing it, I have a passion for it.’ Tyler says he would definitely like to work in the hospitality industry when he leaves school and was excited to be part of the program.

‘I’m very happy to be here!’ he said.