The approach of Spring brings with it a new milestone for Charles MacPherson, marking 10 years since the Charles MacPherson Academy opened its doors to incoming students.
The Toronto-based academy, which educates butlers, household managers, housekeepers, and other domestic service staff, is the only registered private career college of its kind in North America.
Rich with stories, the institution has grown and evolved from humble beginnings. Yet, when reflecting on the last decade, Charles is quick to emphasize that it's actually what hasn't changed about the academy that brings him the most pride.
“When I decided to open the school in 2009, the whole premise was on skills development,” he says. “At the time, other schools were so fixated on the romance and fantasy of working in a castle for the Queen of England as opposed to saying, ‘let’s talk about the reality of working for Mr. and Mrs. who have a house, three kids, and two dogs.’”
While the academy's esteemed curriculum still honours many traditions of the past, this variety of knowledge is not its only focus. The goal of the school is to nurture and develop private service professionals who are ready to thrive in a fast-paced, 21st century household.
“On Day 1, the first thing I remind students is that this is a safe place to make mistakes.” he says, adding that it’s a common misconception that error in a classroom of this sort spells the end of the world. “This is a place where students practice techniques first-hand. It's a place where they build skills and self-confidence. This way, when they're hired, they are capable of managing any situation that comes their way."
He adds that the curriculum goes further than basic 'how-tos' and time-honoured techniques of tray service and bed making. "We cover broader subjects such as successful communication, managing expectations, and establishing boundaries."
“One of the things that’s very important and engrained in our philosophy and thinking, is that every home is run differently," says MacPherson. “While some schools were teaching a hard-fast system that couldn’t be touched, we've always focused on skills development."
The former butler adds that Mr. and Mrs. don’t want to be told when to have breakfast, how to hold a meeting, or how to run their home.
“It is, in the end, their house,” says MacPherson. “We are teaching skills but also techniques on how to adapt to the employer’s lifestyle. It’s not about trying to get them to mold to you, but how you can mold and adapt to best serve them.”
Charles says some of his proudest moments over the past decade have been when he’s heard from former students. "I love it when a student reports back on how they've used a skill they acquired in the academy in a household."
“That always reminds me that our academy’s philosophy is the right one,” he says. “This is why we’ve survived and why we’ve become a leader in the industry. More importantly, it’s why our students are generally so successful once they leave.”