Student describes her experience at college as ‘two of the best years of my life’ as she embarks on hospitality career.

24 September, 2021 12:21 pm

For Mollie Blakey, college wasn’t just the next step from school, it was the vehicle that ignited a spark in her that she never knew existed.

At school, she didn’t fit in and struggled with her work and mental health, not realising she had undiagnosed learning difficulties. 

“A couple of days after starting my course in food preparation at college, my tutor pulled me to one side and asked me a few questions and to read them a section from a menu. The next day I was booked in for an assessment that revealed I had dyslexia.

“It came as a shock at first but I was relieved to find out what was causing my struggles with reading and writing. I was given additional support straight away which made me feel at ease and ready to get started.”

Mollie’s interest in hospitality started from a young age; growing up watching Masterchef and helping her dad in the kitchen. 

“The whole process of cooking and baking fascinates me, from the colours, flavours and textures, to the science of where it comes from and how it’s then presented to you on a plate. My favourite subject at school was food technology, so it made sense for me to pursue it further. The practical elements of the course at Harrogate College appealed to me and I wasn’t disappointed.

“I wasn’t just learning about food, I started to understand and apply other skills such as maths, English and science, which are just as equally important when interpreting instructions and weighing out ingredients for example.”

With continued support and care from Harrogate College staff, Mollie progressed to Level 2 and even got involved in Student Life activities to champion other students who may have been struggling with mental health issues or low confidence.

“I’m a huge advocate of looking after your mental wellbeing and speaking out when you need help, so it was a privilege to be able to work with the college to come up with new ideas to raise awareness. I created a mindmap of potential initiatives and took part in a challenge to walk 27 miles in 27 days, managing to raise over £300 for mental health charity, Mind.

“All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the nurturing environment of Harrogate College and its amazing staff, who formed part of the best two years of my life.”

Last year, Mollie was diagnosed with autism, but rather than dispiriting her, she was empowered to speak out and support others, following her successful mental health campaign work. 

“I got involved in Autism Awareness Week at college as I wanted to get the message out that it shouldn’t stop you from achieving your dreams.”

In her second year at college, Mollie got a part-time job working at Love Brownies cafe, and credits her tutors for helping her with her CV and interview skills, alongside her practical experience in the college bistro. She has now secured a catering assistant role at Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms where she’s excited to put her skills into practice.

“Applying the skills I’ve learnt at college to a real working environment has really increased my confidence and I can’t wait to experience a new challenge and hopefully work my way up. As part of my course, I also gained knowledge about working in hospitality with the added complexities of Covid, which will stand me in good stead for this role.”

Inspired by Horticap Harrogate, Mollie would eventually like to open her own cafe, run by people with learning difficulties and autism, to show that these conditions don’t define who you are.