Career progression for Northern Regional College professional cookery apprentice

James Blair during his Professional Cookery apprenticeship with at Northern Regional College in partnership with Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort, where he has now secured full-time employment

JAMES Blair from Ballymena has recently finished his Professional Cookery apprenticeship at Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort in partnership with Northern Regional College.

Having secured full-time employment, James plans to continue working at the luxury resort, where he can continue to develop his skills and pursue his passion for food and cooking.

James Blair (centre) collects his award for the completion of his Professional Cookery apprenticeship at Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort, in partnership with Northern Regional College alongside classmate Louis Bell (centre-left)


James was studying for A-Levels in Nutrition and Food Science, Life and Health Sciences and Applied ICT at Cambridge House Grammar School when he was given an opportunity to do work experience in the Ramble Inn on the A26.

For James – who had always dreamed of being a chef – his time in the kitchen made him realise that he could turn his passion into a career.

When he found out about the Professional Cookery apprenticeship opportunity, he jumped at the chance calling the decision a “no-brainer.”

“An apprenticeship offered an immediate route into the career I love so why put that off for another year?” explains James on why he chose the apprenticeship over going to catering college after A-Levels.

Richard McGowan, Project Manager at the School of Excellence and Staff Wellbeing at Galgorm, says: “An apprenticeship offers great career progression opportunities, and we are thrilled that all ten of our apprentices this year have progressed to full-time permanent posts here.”

James has been able to gain incomparable, hands-on experience during his apprenticeship, learning from the experts in a top-quality kitchen, which he believes has been extremely valuable.

“You can read in a text-book that a professional kitchen is a high-pressure environment, but unless you’ve actually been there during peak times, you can’t truly understand it,” he says.

James has also relished the opportunity to earn whilst studying and is glad to have completed his apprenticeship with no student loans to worry about.

Professional Cookery apprentices spend four days a week working in the Galgorm kitchens and the practical experience is backed up by theory-based learning at Northern Regional College’s Ballymena campus.

James continued: “It’s great to be able to put into practice what we are taught in the classroom. The balance between theory and hands-on, practical experience has been great and really manageable.”

Looking back over his experience as an apprentice, James says he would “most definitely” recommend the scheme to anyone thinking of a career as a chef.

“If you want to go into the hospitality sector, I honestly think it’s the smartest career move you can make.”

And his advice to them?

“Just go for it! You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.”

Northern Regional College is currently accepting applications for Professional Cookery apprenticeships. For further information about all the apprenticeships and training opportunities on offer, go to

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