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Further afield

College masterclasses with Mary, Queen of Shops

Solihull College is offering courses on retailing designed by the TV guru behind Mary, Queen of Shops. The college, part of the National Skills Academy for the retail industry, is offering the Guide to Successful Retailing, a series of seven masterclasses covering topics from finance and business planning to service, designed by Mary Portas (pictured), who helps to turn around struggling businesses in the BBC2 show. Linzi Johnston, head of retail at the college, said: "We're delighted that we are able to support the region's retailers by offering the invaluable expertise of Mary Portas, someone with extensive experience and knowledge of the ever expanding world of retail. Through the delivery of this programme we aim to help breathe life back into the region's high streets and help to boost the many small businesses which occupy them."

Cookery and customer service apprenticeships heat up

The company behind hotels such as Malmaison and Hotel du Vin has launched a new academy to train apprentices in customer service or the restaurant trade. The De Vere Academy of Hospitality in Crewe, owned by the Alternative Hotel Group, will train up to 300 students a year on level 2 apprenticeships in professional cookery or customer service, partly funded by Cheshire County Council and the National Apprenticeship Service. Over the next three years, the hotel group intends to train 10,000 young people and it has plans to launch further academies in Milton Keynes and Greenwich. Richard Balfour-Lynn, chief executive of the Alternative Hotel Group, said: "We hope that we not only change the perception of the industry as a career but build an amazing talent pool of future hospitality stars. We are confident that by giving these young people the best start possible we may ultimately attract them to work for us in years to come."

Khemka collects award for achievements in education

West Nottinghamshire College principal Asha Khemka has been presented with an award at the House of Lords by a group for Indians living all over the world. Mrs Khemka, who rose to the top at her college despite her own education being cut short at 14 when she married in India, was awarded a gold medal for achievements in education by the Non-Resident Indian Welfare Society. Mrs Khemka said: "People travelled from all over the world to collect their awards in London and I was lucky enough to meet many of them. After hearing some of their success stories and great life journeys, I felt very humbled to be in the company of such high-achievers. I'm truly grateful to have been one of those people to be recognised. I do my job well because of the tremendous support I get from my work colleagues and from my family."

Call to get tax relief for money spent on course fees

Unionlearn, the Trades Union Congress body that supports learning in the workplace, has called for individuals to get tax relief for the money they spend on course fees. In its report, The Future for Union Learning, it said companies should also have to prove they are raising the qualifications of their workforce and publish details of their training programmes in their annual reports in order to benefit from the #163;3.5 billion tax break they currently receive. Tom Wilson, director of Unionlearn, said: "The very first trade union banners gave equal prominence to three words - educate, agitate, organise - and today, when 10 million people receive no training at all at their workplace, unions have as great a role to play in education as ever. Learning is humanising: it helps to reassert human values above material values, the value of thinking, listening and working together. It is the key to well-being and happiness."

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