Life in the fast lane for college apprentice

Noel Flynn and Paul Varcoe

Noel Flynn (left) & Paul Varcoe (right)

The thrills and spills of being at Grand Prix track-sides are second nature to a Worle man who has been studying for an Apprenticeship as the high-powered cars roar by.

Noel Flynn works as a front-of-house Operations Manager for Weston-based Freeman’s Hospitality, which provides catering and other services for a range of motorsport clients including the Virgin Formula One team.

But when Noel is not looking after exhausted drivers and feeding celebrity guests, he has been studying for an NVQ Level 3 Apprenticeship in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership.

When Noel joined Freeman’s after some years out of the hospitality business he felt he needed a refresher, and contacted Weston College to see what it could offer him.

He was put in touch with assessor Paul Varcoe, who guided him through the Apprenticeship programme and was on hand at Silverstone this summer to watch Noel in action and monitor his progress.

Noel, 43, is now back in Weston after a long F1 season which took in 19 events and many thousands of miles travelling.

He said: “It’s a very busy job that often sees you working from 5am to 11pm but it’s very varied and you’re often called on to help out with things like pushing the cars off the grid.

“You get used to seeing celebrities around. Richard Branson came out five times last season and he’s a very nice guy but to be honest you switch off to all that and just get on with your job.

“After working in catering for a long time I came out and didn’t return for eight years. When I did, I realised there might be gaps in my knowledge after that length of time so I wanted to bring my skills up to date.

“The Apprenticeship qualification is job-related and that was the easiest way of doing it. In my spare time I was able to study, and had various meetings with Paul to make sure I was on course.”

Paul Varcoe said: “Noel already had some qualifications but wanted to extend those into a managerial role and so we were able to offer him a suitable NVQ Level 3 apprenticeship.

“It’s a great example of ‘earn and learn’, and it proves that Apprenticeships aren’t just for younger people. Someone like Noel has a lot of experience in his field but there is always something new to learn and this has been very beneficial for his career development.”