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Irene Hays formally made a dame at Windsor Castle

Hays Travel owner Irene Hays has formally been made a dame commander by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle.

Hays was awarded the damehood for services to training, education and young people in the New Year Honours List on December 30, 2020, shortly after the death of husband John, founder of Hays Travel, in November last year.

The investiture took place at Windsor Castle today (November 23), after which Hays said: “I am delighted and proud to accept this honour on behalf of all of the apprentices and all of the trainers everywhere, especially at Hays Travel, where we have always supported and developed young people to be the best they can be and to get the most they can out of life.

“Young people have been the lifeblood of Hays Travel for over 40 years – and they are vital to our future.”

Hays, who was also awarded a CBE in 2008, has championed apprenticeships since supporting trainees on the youth opportunities programmes of the 1980s in senior roles in local and national government, and alongside her late husband launched the Hays Travel Foundation, which has invested more than £1 million to support young people.

Hays told Travel Weekly when she was awarded the damehood that Hays Travel would continue to invest in young people “even though times are tough”.

Born in Ashington, Northumberland, to a mining family, Hays has held senior posts in local and national government, including spells as chief executive of Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council.

She is also a former director general of local government and regeneration in Whitehall and held the role of permanent secretary in the department of communities and local government on an interim basis prior to her retirement.

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