University’s ground-breaking employability initiative expands to The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
A ground-breaking initiative which offers paid employment opportunities for students is expanding to provide tourism ambassadors for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Pioneered by Queen Margaret University, the Student Tourism Ambassador Role Scotland (STARS) programme was designed to create a tourism ambassador programme for the City of Edinburgh, creating a seamless journey for all visitors from their arrival at the airport and on to the main city attractions. No other city in the UK has an initiative like this which nurtures the talent of university students to help enhance the visitor experience and strengthen the city’s tourism reputation.
The programme has helped more than 50 students secure paid employment in customer service tourism roles with Edinburgh International Airport, Virgin Trains at Waverley Station and Edinburgh’s St James. This summer, the winning career development project will provide up to 20 students to assist visitors at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Professor Joe Goldblatt, from Queen Margaret University, is a world renowned expert in events management. He conceived the project with Juan Garcia, QMU’s Employability Adviser. Professor Goldblatt explained: “Since it started in summer 2014 in the international arrivals hall at Edinburgh International Airport, our University STARS students have welcomed 350,000 people from all over the world. The fact that our STARS students speak 22 languages between then, helps to ensure that international visitors to Edinburgh are given a warm welcome, which is backed up with useful visitor information.”
The students are the project’s greatest asset and all have developed important customer service and communication skills, which equip them with desirable skills for the tourism, events and other relevant industries. The introduction of a student coordinator’s role has provided outstanding leadership skills, with students who have held this position gaining graduate jobs in related sectors. Having worked as STARS Coordinator, Rebecca Neish went on to work for Disney World in Florida, later returning to Scotland to secure a training position with the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. Lauren Osborne, who was the first Coordinator, moved on from STARS work to Membership Coordinator at 28 York Place.
Juan Garcia said: “Students are put through a rigorous application and training process with further training subsequently provided by the employer. Each student also has a personal development programme and coaching, and is tasked with producing a reflective essay. By the time they graduate from Queen Margaret University they will possess significant academic knowledge and practical skills, ensuring they are highly desirable graduates with the appropriate skills to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.”
Edinburgh International Airport was pleased to kick-start the project. It utilised the STARS initiative to improve the customer experience for international visitor arrivals. Virgin Trains West Coast has embraced the STARS, with students adding to the visitor experience at Waverley Station by greeting passengers from trains and helping them on a positive onward journey. STARS students also helped create a seamless visitor experience around the Edinburgh St James by informing the public about the developments whilst the Centre is under construction.
The STARS team is now excited about the project expansion with students set to work in a variety of different customer service roles with the Royal Military Tattoo.
Roddy Smith, Chief Executive at Essential Edinburgh, explained: “Essential Edinburgh and our partners have greatly benefitted from the QMU STARS programme during the past year. These young people have brought professionalism, vitality and a warm welcome for thousands of our visitors that reflects very well indeed upon the City of Edinburgh.”
Adrian Crighton, a PR, Marketing and Events student, is currently working as STARS Coordinator. He said: “I am gaining essential practical management skills over and above the academic knowledge I’m learning on my degree. It’s improving my confidence and developing my leadership skills. We are gearing up for the Tattoo and many of our STARS students will be able to gain experience of working at this world famous event, as well as with the STARS projects in other parts of the city. That’s sure to be a real boost to their work experience and their CV!”
Professor Goldblatt confirmed: “The model not only creates paid work and outstanding skills development for our students, if offers business solutions for our partners, and could be easily transferable to other locations and universities.”
Pictured: STARS from left, Josselyn Tarazona; Emma Lourie; Adrian Crighton; Matt Higginson and RaakShaana Gnanamurali.