In our final Sector Spotlight on the Food and Drink sector we hear from Jane Ellison from JP Orkney. As well as being the partner/owner of JP Orkney with her partner, Paul, she also works as a Home Economics Teacher at Stromness Academy.
After completing her GCSE’s, Jane spent time travelling in Malaysia before returning home to complete her A Levels. She then went to University where she achieved an HND in Hospitality Business Management, and a degree in Food Systems and Quality Assurance. Following graduation, she worked in restaurant management before undertaking a post-graduate qualification to become a teacher.
A move to Orkney saw Jane and Paul setting up their hospitality business offering guided tours, Orkney made produce and electric camper van hire.
Can you describe a typical day in your roles as a Home Economics Teacher and also the partner/owner of JP Orkney?
In my role as a teacher, typically, 50-80 different pupils will come through my classroom door a day. We are either working through recipes within a 50-minute time limit or exploring food related themes from food safety to provenance and from nutrition to food costs.
At JP Orkney, depending on the time of the year I can either be harvesting and preparing rhubarb, gooseberries, green beans to name a few, packaging and processing orders, making fresh bakes, tablet or preserves, planting and managing the poly tunnel, labelling, developing products or attending markets; no day is the same.
How did you end up in your roles?
In 1995 while still at school I began working as a part-time waitress earning £2.92 an hour. My restaurant manager at the time was a young mum who was studying for a Masters in Wine; this greatly fascinated me. I passed nine GCSE’s and began studying towards A levels with the view to go to university, but I had no idea what to do.
An opportunity to travel to Malaysia and be part of an expedition in 1997 with Operation Raleigh International came up. This captured my imagination immediately, pausing my A level studies off I went. During my trip I was inspired by the Asian culture and knew I still wanted to explore the world more.
Back home I continued to build great working relationships in the award-winning restaurant where I first began and worked towards an NVQ in Restaurant Supervision. Between one AS level in Biology, an NVQ distinction and work references I got to uni.
My time at university was in two parts, the first working towards a HND in Hospitality Business Management then once complete I could study a BSc Hons in Food Systems and Quality Assurance. I had deliberately chosen Hospitality Business Management as it included a year’s work in industry which I did at a Chinese owned hotel chain in Beijing.
As many students do, I had a part-time job working as a restaurant supervisor for a newly opened venue in Leeds. To be part of the opening team at a high-end venue was a fabulous experience. After graduating I moved to Sheffield and took on the role as General Manager at an independent award-winning restaurant. As well as restaurant work, while I was there, I gained the experience of running large scale outside catering events. I was full-time in the trade until 2006 where I went part time whilst re-training as a food teacher.
I had read an article highlighting the shortages of food teachers in school. I was ready for a new challenge and direction as the gruelling 80 hours weeks were beginning to take their toll. At that point I hadn’t even considered being a teacher and didn’t even realise you could be a food teacher! It caught my interest, so I enquired at the local university. Having had 10 years food industry experience at that point and held a food related degree, I was considered an ideal candidate. Following a postgraduate course in education less than a year later I was released as a newly qualified teacher.
During the early years of teaching, I began to study towards my Masters in education. It was at that point my dyslexia was identified. Being diagnosed dyslexic in my 30’s meant I reflected a lot on my own education experience.
Ten years later I was ready for another challenge! This is when I moved to Orkney with my partner Paul and young son to set up our own hospitality business offering qualified guided tours, Orkney made produce and electric camper van hire.
What is the best thing about your job?
As a teacher, it is without a doubt I witness the sheer surprise and delight in a pupil’s progress or when you’re able to offer the tools to pupils who otherwise don’t engage but find food a means of success.
As a business owner, it is to put into practice everything I teach and knowing the business that I am part of is my creation. It’s good to feel proud of your own successes as well as feeling proud of others which I get when teaching. It’s great to be able to create your own diary of events and work with your own constraints of the day. I get a great sense of enjoyment from growing and harvesting produce which I then make into something someone’s willing to buy!
What is the worst thing about your job?
In teaching, having deadlines out of your control and the pressure of knowing you influence young lives. While in the business it is knowing you need to reach financial targets so as to pay the bills. The unknown and not knowing how your business can be affected.
What skills do you need to undertake your role?
In teaching you need energy! You also need to be a team player as you’re part of a department as well as a whole school. You need to be patient, observant and have the ability to work with different personalities. You need to be interested in your subject area and super organised.
When running your own business you need to have good time management and be self-disciplined. For me, I bring creativity to the business, as well as industry experience. A grounding in food hygiene and safety has helped underpin my school and business work.
What qualifications do you have?
Would you recommend this job to young people, if so why?
Absolutely! I would recommend all the jobs I have done and still currently do, as long as they are right for you. It’s all about taking on opportunities as they arise as well as going out and creating your own. The hospitality industry is fascinating and so diverse, it’s hard work physically and taxing mentally but you can create and be part of something that affects us all, food.
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