Students learn business travel at Carlson WagonlitThis month Carlson Wagonlit Travel welcomed a group of travel and tourism students on a work placements as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the business travel sector.

The placement was part of a three-year partnership with WALTZ, a London-based programme designed to help employers in travel and tourism meet their local recruitment needs and enable young people, aged 18-25, from inner city areas, to enter careers in the sector.

CWT human resources director Sue Kavanagh said: “When I was at college and did a travel and tourism qualification, I knew about airlines, operators and the leisure side, but I didn’t know about business travel.

“I’m keen to encourage people into the sector. It is often under-represented in these initiatives – mainly because it is perceived as a bit staid.

“When I left college I wanted to work for an airline or operator. Luckily, I fell into business travel. This initiative helps give people a more rounded picture of travel management. It’s also a good recruitment source.”

Students are invited on a taster day at CWT’s Heathrow offices.

“They are given a two-and-a-half-hour lesson on how to do a booking on Galileo, which is an eye-opener for them,” said Kavanagh.

A number of students are then invited to spend a couple of weeks in the office. “Students will shadow a consultant who will talk them through the processes,” Kavanagh explained. 

“Although there will be no direct contact with clients, they will help on the admin side, or if there is any research that needs to be done.

“It’s good for the students to experience the culture of working – getting up at 7am every morning and coming into an office. It’s a huge change from your college days.”

WALTZ project director Lorraine Lawson agrees. “Young people at college have got the theory, but they don’t know what it means to be on call, deliver solid service, be punctual, learn people skills or resolve tricky issues.”

And it’s not just the students that benefit – the company does too. Lawson said companies are keen to take on students through WALTZ because it helps them develop their junior and middle managers.

“It helps them develop the skills for communication and negotiation, making presentations, or coaching somebody,” she said.

Although WALTZ works with a number of other travel, tourism and hospitality companies, CWT is the only travel management company it has a partnership with.

“It’s been wonderful for us to show a different side of the industry. Many students understand retail, but they haven’t much idea about what a business travel company does. It’s a whole new world for them,” said Lawson.


What is WALTZ?

WALTZ stands for Work and Apprenticeships in the London Tourism Sector.

It is funded by the London Development Agency and the programme focuses on the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster.

Most participants are aged between 18 and 24. At least 50% are women, and at least 40% are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Course attendees take part in a WALTZ term-time programme and a WALTZ summer school in July.

The summer school includes a Boot Camp Challenge, a 24-hour ‘tourism experience’ during which one team acts as the guests and the other as the service team.

Those who successfully complete the summer school get the chance to do a two-week work experience placement.


Case study

Natalie Butler-Smith, 22, took part in the first year of the CWT/WALTZ initiative.

“At college, I didn’t know much about business travel. In my CWT placement, I realised it was very different to leisure. With business travel, it’s even more important to get everything right, or you risk losing the company a high-value contract.

“I did all the invoicing, I made a couple of calls and listened in to some calls with clients. I spent time in the visa department and handled the petty cash. We were given a booklet of Galileo codes and we had to learn some of them.

“Under guidance, we also made some bookings – it was more complicated than I expected.

“It was good to learn about the working environment and how to work as a team. The main benefit was talking to people and finding out how I could potentially move up the ladder.

“I was thinking of going straight into work, but after this placement I realised it would be better to study travel and tourism at university. I’m now at London South Bank University studying for a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management.”