Bury College Students Climb On-board East Lancashire Railway Collaboration

Bury College Travel students were given the opportunity to gain valuable employability skills when they took part in the family favourite Santa Specials event hosted by East Lancashire Railway.

Acknowledged as the second biggest paid leisure attraction in Manchester, the East Lancashire Railway welcomed on board ambitious students who were keen to learn skills such as time management, customer service and problem solving.

The Santa Specials are one of the North West’s much loved traditions for many families. The event, which carried almost 40,000 visitors and ran from the 24th November to 24th December, involved a steam train ride to Rawtenstall and back through the Irwell Valley. Guests were invited to enjoy a traditional brass band and carol singing, costumed characters, magician and a very special visit from Father Christmas himself.

The Travel and Tourism students, who ranged from Level 2 and Level 3 learners, undertook roles such as stewarding, meeting and greeting guests, dressing up as Elf characters and assisting staff on the train. The students were introduced to this unique work experience opportunity following a newly established partnership between Bury College and the East Lancashire Railway. This partnership is looking set to grow as the East Lancashire Railway are keen to invite students on-board for Santa Specials in 2018 as well as other events.

Charlotte Dagnall, 17 years old from Kearsley, volunteered on the Santa Specials experience every day including Christmas Eve. The enthusiastic Level 3 Travel and Tourism student was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in such a recognised, well-established event.

The former Harper Green School pupil said, “The volunteering opportunity with East Lancashire Railway was one of the best things that I have ever done! I completed 88 hours work experience which helped to develop my confidence, conversation skills and how I handle challenging situations.”

East Lancashire Railway representatives Mike Kelly, Chairman, Gerald Atherton, Volunteer Manager and Tracey Parkinson, General Manager, were delighted to pay a recent visit to Bury College to meet the students and present volunteers with certificates. These certificates will add great value to the students CVs and portfolios and will further enhance their career opportunities. 

Mike said, “We always welcome young people to get involved with our heritage railway. We are very grateful for the student volunteers who added real value to the whole Santa Specials experience, I know many of our long serving volunteers enjoyed being with them both to help the students get front line work experience but also highlight just how much fun we have during this period. With being such a large organisation right on the college’s doorstep we felt that this was a great opportunity to offer leisure experience to Travel and Tourism students.

We wanted to visit Bury College to thank and celebrate the students who volunteered and to promote that there are lots of volunteering opportunities with the ELR and our aim to double or triple the number of students gaining work experience with us.”

Students also offered their valuable feedback of the Santa Specials experience which included their impressions of the event and any observations and suggestions. Students agreed that the event was well organised and well managed and an exciting opportunity to gain customer facing, front line skills.

Travel and Tourism

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