“The degree was only a part of the help that BU gave; the ability to experience life and meet great friends and a support network was the other. This opened doors and opportunities that steered me into a career I wasn’t expecting.”
When Andrew Cole first came to study in Bournemouth, he had aspirations of becoming a rock star. Instead, he found himself starting the journey to a long and successful career in hospitality management – and met the woman of his dreams.
“If I’m honest, I really wasn’t sure what the future held for me at the time and the thought of tourism studies interested me as it appeared to me to be a business studies degree focused on the travel industry,” said Andrew, who graduated from BA (Hons) Tourism Studies in 1992.
“I did also have aspirations on becoming a famous rock guitarist and saw Bournemouth as a lively place to chase that dream, which of course got sidetracked!
“I was also hoping to meet the woman of my dreams there and that bit did come true. Sarah is also a Bournemouth University graduate, we met in my second year and we are still happily married twenty five years later with two kids.”
Throughout his degree, Andrew also made the most of the extra-curricular activities on offer at BU, including a third year placement at a local nightclub.
“It was definitely enlightening but actually taught me a huge deal on customer service, operations and leadership,” Andrew remembers.
“The extra-curricular bits were wide and varied as I developed a wide range of friends both from the university and from the part-time bar and hotel jobs to pay the way.”
Those part-time hotel jobs – alongside the experience and education gained during his degree – paved the way for a successful twenty year career in the hotel industry upon graduating.
Andrew was first made general manager of a hotel in the Cotswolds at the tender age of 24, and moved through several general manager roles across the country – eventually running the four star Ramada hotel in Solihull before moving to property management and shopping centres.
As general manager for the 650,000sqft Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull, Andrew is now responsible for over £200 million in sales and a 14 million footfall annually.
“My career path was a bit of an accident but that in itself shows you that if you can leave with a good degree you will eventually find your niche,” said Andrew, adding that gaining real world experience and connections during a degree are equally as important.
“My main tips would be to get experience in the real world and a job alongside your studies can really help that. Develop your links with colleagues and friends as who you know is so important and you need to start early.
“Leadership skills are also a massive missing element in a lot of graduates’ arsenal so try and develop those too.”
Andrew has also made himself an integral part of the Solihull community, and was awarded an MBE for services to retail and charity in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
“They never usually tell you the exact reasons behind an MBE but I can guess and say it was due to me having a lot of outside interests other than the main career.
“I started a charity transporting blood samples and records between hospitals on emergency Blood Bikes, organised a fireworks display for Solihull Round Table for 12,000 people each year for five years, and I sit on a lot of boards and committees such as Shopmobility and the Employment and Skills Board.”
Andrew still looks back fondly on his time at BU and believes it gave him the tools he needed to make up his mind about his career path, and then be able to pursue those choices.
“BU was brilliant and I created memories that will last a lifetime. For me BU was the perfect blend of education, nightlife, safety, beach and things to do.
“The degree was only a part of the help that BU gave; the ability to experience life and meeting great friends and a support network was the other. This opened doors and opportunities that steered me into a career I wasn’t expecting.”