Aston Villa Catering Club

NCASS, Digbeth Dining Club CIC, Aston Villa Foundation and South Birmingham College have collaborated to run a training course with 364 hours of guided learning, including culinary skills, life skills and hospitality entrepreneurship for people out of work in the city.

The first cohort is now complete (ten trainees all completed) and two businesses have already started, with several more expected in the coming months.

Summary At A Glance

  • NCASS, Digbeth Dining Club CIC, Aston Villa in the community and South Birmingham College
  • Running a training course with 364 hours of guided learning, including culinary skills, life skills and hospitality entrepreneurship for people out of work in Brum
  • First cohort now complete (ten trainees all completed). Two businesses already started, several more expected in the coming months
  • Aim is to help people into work and employability. Where latent talent exists we aim to activate this and support the individuals on their entrepreneurial journey
  • Aims to demonstrate that: 1.) people can be helped into meaningful employment in our sector 2.) The Sefton project could work
  • NCASS provided three online courses, two workshops, two dragons den type events


Created by Aston Villa in the Community, part of AVFC and funded through the premier league community scheme. AV communities team approached DDC after both working on the HAF project.


The HAF (or holiday activity fund) is funded by the Department of Education and includes provision of a daily meal and an activity for young people eligible for support (free school meals) through school holidays. AV in the community provided activities for kids in their patch (North & West Brum). DDC provided the meals.

NCASS had been working on accessing free school meal (work/funding) throughout Covid) for members (we were looking for any work our members could get paid for) and helped DDC CIC secure the contract for 6,000 kids in Brum per day. NCASS supported on safety, systems and securing the contracts to enable the DDC CIC to operate.

AV in the Community

The Aston Villa in the Community team looking to develop positive solutions people in their community / catchment area. Which includes some of the most challenging areas in the region. For example the electoral district of Ladywood has more young people eligible for free school meals than all of Bristol combined.

Funded by the football club they are able to pitch ideas for the community work to the Premier League who then provide funding. Through discussions with Digbeth Dining Club they came up with the concept of an Aston Villa Dining Club.


NCASS stakeholders team work closely with street food organisers, this was especially the case during Covid where stakeholders were looking to help these organisations and the NCASS embers they provided work to – to stay in business. To support NCASS members ‘on the ground’ by organizing work and helping them to pivot. Where possible, NCASS would develop blue print to enable others to replicate the idea. The DDC Drive thru opened during the first lockdown is an example of this.

When there was no normal work due to Covid, stakeholders team were pushing different government departments to work with mobile caterers, feeding NHS staff, taking on council contracts and providing free school meals.

Hospitality Led regeneration

In addition, the stakeholders team had been developing a concept for ‘Hospitality led regeneration’ of high streets, the high street recovery plan and ‘levelling up’ strategy. The aim, to demonstrate that indie hospitality businesses such as NCASS members could contribute to the recovery. By creating events and destinations in town and city centres, to train up much needed hospitality staff and to support people to set up their own businesses safely, legally and profitably.

This involved developing training and work experience, opportunities and a pathway into employment.

The Aston Villa Dining Club seemed a perfect opportunity to test out whether the pilot scheme could also work.

South Birmingham College

The local catering & hospitality college has played a key role in the project. Providing a lecturer to provide culinary skills practical training onsite at Villa Park once a week. Giving the trainees kitchen experience, an understanding of the basics, a chance to re-connect as part of a group / team and support in developing product ideas to launch a business with.

NCASS have provided online training and face to face workshops to the trainees to help them develop the business and safety side of their business concept. DDC are providing he administration of the scheme and organizing work experience and business incubation. Aston Villa are providing the oversight as well as key skills training and supporting the trainees.

How did it go?

The first cohort of 10 trainees is about to graduate. One has already launched a business – and is an NCASS member. Several others are about to launch or developing their ideas. One has opened a vegan pop up kitchen and ready meals business. All of the trainees will have completed 364 hours of guided learning including work experience with DDC traders.

All ten trainees completed the course and are due to graduate in the next week. A second cohort is being recruited now. It has also demonstrated that with targeted support – the talent that exists across the community can be tapped into and enabled.

What’s next?

The second cohort are being recruited now.

There are possibilities of rolling out to other towns and cities with Premier League clubs and expand the Birmingham project.

This could be an affordable and practical solution to back fill so many of the vacancies in the hospitality sector by giving trainees the confidence and experience to work in the sector.

Find out more about the Villa Foundation.

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