Nicole Kay didn’t really know what career she wanted when she was in her last two years at high school. But a part-time job and a couple of ServiceIQ qualifications later, everything came into focus for her and now an exciting world has opened-up.
In fact, at only 18 years of age, Nicole’s career success so far has won her national recognition. In 2017, she was one of seven in the country to win Hospitality New Zealand’s ‘Rising Star Award for Up & Coming Front of House’ at the awards event in Wellington.
It all started with a passion for tourism. At school, Nicole completed ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Certificate in Tourism (Introductory Skills) Level 2 and she took an evening job in food service at Invercargill’s premiere, four-star Ascot Park Hotel, a role she held onto throughout her year at polytechnic where she completed two ServiceIQ programmes – New Zealand Certificates in Travel – Level 3 and Level 4.
“When I first left school, I did a course in travel as my way to start out,” says Nicole. “I knew I wanted to work in tourism but I didn’t know what I wanted to.”
Then, in 2016, Ascot Park Restaurant Manager Karla Brotherston (nee Vetters), offered her a full-time role plus the chance to train on-job as Restaurant Supervisor at the hotel’s popular Emberz restaurant.
Karla, an industry expert with 17 years’ experience in New Zealand and overseas, is very impressed with Nicole’s positive attitude and ambition.
“She’s a good worker and takes instructions really well,” says Karla. “She’s also quite driven, just like other successful people we’ve trained who have gone on to senior roles. It’s great that the perception of hospitality is changing and people are realising that it’s a serious career with so many opportunities.”
Upskilling in the hospitality side of New Zealand’s booming tourism industry is the perfect path for Nicole, who says, “it’s an ideal way to move through the ranks which is what everyone’s goal is at our age.”
In fact, last year, Karla and ServiceIQ’s regional training advisor Clare Van Elst arranged for Nicole to formalise her on-job education with a qualification training programme. By the time she celebrated her 18th birthday, she says she was thrilled to have gained a ServiceIQ Certificate in Food & Beverage – Level 3.
“It’s great to have my knowledge officially recognised. I’m gaining first-hand experience, plus I’m learning from someone who has done the role for so long and has so much to teach me.”
It’s not just the stars on a hotel rating that makes the job exciting. Stars like Anthony Hopkins and the Silver Ferns have stayed at the hotel, and on her first night Nicole says she was delighted to see Graeme Henry.
“I love hotel customer service. You meet the coolest people from all over the world and you hear the most incredible stories.”
It’s up to Nicole to make sure that the restaurant and room service runs smoothly for customers, training her wait staff and dealing with any issues as they arise. For her, it’s one of the most satisfying roles. Especially in the southern city’s largest luxury hotel that often operates at full capacity with a steady stream of business customers, conferences and events.
“I really enjoy watching all the planning for large functions come together on the night, and it’s cool to see our people go from beginners to confident wait staff.”
Nicole’s goal is to keep developing her career at the hotel, and one day join a large international hospitality chain where she can get more experience while travelling around the world.
“Some people have this idea that hospitality means wait staff but there are many different possibilities and you can go so much further – chefs, functions, catering. There’s so much you can learn, and there’s so much experience you can get on the job that helps start a great career.”