Concepted in 2019 by long-time collaborators Carol Fergus, of Fidelity International, and Steve Geneux, of BCD Travel, the goal of the apprenticeship is to recruit a new generation of industry talent that reflects all facets of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, mobility and socioeconomic groups.
“As the world changed in 2019, Carol and I talked a lot about what our business might look like when things got back to normal,” said Geneux, Vice President Operations & Account Management for BCD Travel UK. “From Carol’s perspective as a Black woman, she wondered if we could pull off a radically different apprenticeship program. One that would expose under-served or under-resourced job seekers to not just travel agent roles, but the full range of what we do, including what happens on the client side.”
Fergus, Director – Global Travel, Meetings and Ground Transportation at Fidelity International, challenged Geneux to approach the idea through the lens of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I). Her vision: to create a program for candidates who aren’t university bound but are ambitious and need direction in their job search. Fergus said, “We’re in an amazing time in the travel industry. We need resources and this opportunity is about people – no matter their age, physical ability, household income, color, or neighborhood. This model opens the door for those overlooked people who want help building a career and are willing to learn.” Fergus is a founding member of the DE&I committees for both the Travel & Meetings Society and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). She currently serve as Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee at GBTA.
Geneux and Fergus in 2021 together selected a candidate to undertake the first two-year apprenticeship, which rotates through various on-site roles, including operations, program management, sales and travel management within the corporate organization – in this case, Fidelity International. The apprentice earns a salary which is funded by Fidelity via the agreement in place with BCD.
Their efforts, in part, helped land them a Finalist spot at the 2022 Business Travel Awards Europe.
One of the best
Khloe Vanner of London is one year into the experience. After secondary school, Vanner attended Stansted Airport College for two years and had trouble finding apprenticeships in travel and aviation. A few tour operators and travel companies rejected her application, despite her Stansted experience. “At college, we looked at business travel a little, so I was aware of it, but thought it would be difficult to get into,” Vanner said. “I looked for an apprenticeship for over seven months before I found this one through Damar.” Damar Training is a leading provider of business and professional apprenticeships across Europe.
In her first year, Khloe was introduced to and trained in travel management tools, including the Global Distribution System (GDS). She was responsible for:
- Monitoring the Fidelity travel request inbox
- Reviewing and fulfilling up to eight daily travel requests for flight, hotel and train bookings
- Serving as administrator/meeting assistant for Fergus’ monthly GBTA meetings
“A year ago, I had no idea about what I got myself into,” Vanner said. “I started this apprenticeship being quiet. There were days I did things completely wrong and had to be corrected; but that is all part of the learning process. I’ve learned to own mistakes and understand what I must do to prevent them happening again. I appreciate the support I get from Fidelity and BCD. Today, I love that I get to speak to different people every day and that every request requires something different of me. But I believe in myself and my work and know I will succeed within business travel.”
“Khloe came across as shy and insecure,” Fergus said. “I wasn’t sure she’d make it. Today, I’ve heard she’s one of the best there is. She doesn’t mess around.”
“Intern or apprenticeships like these aren’t just about learning the GDS,” said Geneux. “There’s also deep value in developing latent or hidden skills like time management, negotiation, navigating difficult conversations, and learning to keep calls and meetings on track with the agenda.” In her second year, Vanner will gain more exposure with Program Management and Sales.
How to apply
The apprenticeship is open intake. Geneux and Fergus consider applicants year-round. In September, they began seminars and recruitment drives at colleges in London and Careers hubs in Liverpool to grow awareness and recruit more candidates.
Generally, applicants should:
- Demonstrate motivation and a willingness to learn
- Possess basic computing and Web skills
- Be able to enter a two-year commitment with BCD Travel and Fidelity International
- Have completed their GCSEs (the rough equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma)
“Personality and drive weigh far more than grades, though,” said Geneux.