The team at A Better Start Southend is celebrating following a successful start to its Work Skills projects, four projects aimed at equipping parents with the skills and confidence they need to seek employment in Southend. The first ‘industry visit’, which took place on 26 January, gave nine local parents a behind the scenes look at luxury restaurant Bourgee, and resulted in a job for new mum Hayley Dye.

Bourgee staff including the Group Executive Chef, Group Manager and Head Chef met the job hunters to explain how the business was growing. They enjoyed an exclusive tour of the kitchen, saw signature dishes being made, and even got to taste them. The staff answered the parents’ questions about working in the hospitality industry. A free crèche was arranged by A Better Start Southend so the parents could take part in the session.

Amir Girnary, Skills Officer at Southend Borough Council, who manages Work Skills says:

“Lots of parents are really keen to get back into work but, for whatever reason, just don’t think it’s possible. We want to show them that it is. Our mission is to connect parents, who we engage at Children’s Centres, with local businesses and we’re already making fantastic things happen. Our aim is to help parents help themselves – it’s about building their confidence and skills so they are able to say ‘that’s the job for me’ and go for it. Work can be exciting and we want to show our parents the benefits that go far beyond a regular pay packet.”

Hayley Dye was one of the parents who spoke with the Bourgee management team at the event and, following a trial in the kitchen, started her job looking after the dessert section a week later. She explains:

“I’ve got lots of experience waitressing, but had never worked in a kitchen before. I’d been job hunting for a while, but was struggling to find anything that would fit with caring for my nine-month-old daughter. I was approached by the Work Skills team at a local Children’s Centre and thought the industry visit sounded great. It was a really interesting day, learning about the restaurant and their concept of affordable luxury. I look after my daughter during the day and work evenings while my partner has her. I’m really enjoying my new role and taking credit for the work I do.”

Ben Wells, Group Executive Chef at Bourgee, says:

“Hayley’s taken to the role brilliantly. She’s gone from being a new mum to a chef in whites. She comes in and works as hard if not harder than the rest of the guys in the kitchen. She’s clever so she gets it and has become a really valued member of the team. When we recruit we’re looking for three things: personality, passion and professionalism. We’ve got good training in place so our focus is developing promising individuals; we’re not always looking for loads of experience.”

Feedback on the initial industry visits have been very positive and there are more planned with organisations including Southend Theatres, RBS Natwest, Toby Carvery and Southend Airport.

For more information on A Better Start Work Skills visit, contact Amir Girnary on 01702 212743 or email

For more information on Bourgee, which has restaurants in Southend, Chelmsford, and a branch opening in Bury St Edmunds, visit


Article published March 2017