The Chef Shortage, College Funding & the Industry

There have been lots in the industry press recently about the chronic shortage of skilled chefs. The training facilities available and how they prepare students to work in the industry are not up to the mark. Catering is often a second choice for school leavers and FE enrolment normally rises in years where school leavers get poor GCSE results.highbury_college
Continued cuts in FE college funding have reduced the number of courses on offer and all existing funds are directed in favour of entry level qualifications targeted at school leavers (lets keep them off the dole!). With catering departments facing skill audits and redundancies across the country due to a falling number of applicants this is driving the experienced and highly prized hospitality lecturers out of the industry. Colleges are struggling to populate, deliver and fund higher level courses on a full cost recovery basis and risk losing their status as centres for excellence. It’s the stars in every walk of life that shine and inspire others, just look at how Usain Bolt has changed the face of aspiration, achievement and involvement in athletics. When the tide turns, as it will one day, colleges will have to recruit and train their teaching staff all over again. The impact on the catering industry, most noticeably chefs, is instant. Cooking has never been so cool and trendy, it is on TV all the time, we have celebrity chefs, restaurants with global profiles, cookery books that look like works of art but there is a massive shortage of skilled chefs, particularly at junior level, throughout the trade. The apprenticeship scheme has brought a lot of young people into professional kitchens and some of our TV chefs actively promote training, Jamie Oliver’s 15 is well known, and in London some of the best independent fresh food restaurants are home-growing their Head Chefs of the future.

catering college studentsWe also now have a huge sector of the industry that require staff with basic food training and nothing more. These are the branded outlets that occupy prime locations on every high St in the country and deliver high volume pre-prepared food that we have all got so used to. McDonald’s, Weatherspoons, Ramada, Starbucks, the motorway service station etc etc. Colleges have had to respond to this need by supplying large numbers of graduates with very basic training and qualifications. The jobs they move into are not challenging or satisfying, no surprise that many don’t stay in the industry.

What’s the answer? Well its back to basics.

  1. Allow colleges more freedom in how they allocate their funding.
  2. Improved relationship between employers and training facilities.
  3. Outsourced training to be quality driven and not financially centred.
  4. Raise the bar. A return to a better level of training the old C&G 706 is a much stronger start than the current NVQ2, the French C.A.P even better.

 

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