HIT Training are Helping Reduce the National Shortage of Skilled Chefs

Chefs may never have had such a high profile.

Cookery shows attract millions of viewers, recipe books top the best seller lists and most people could name at least three celebrity chefs without hesitation.

But despite the hospitality industry spending so much time in the public eye, a survey earlier this year by VisitEngland revealed a national shortage of skilled chefs.

Paul Mannering, Principal of HIT Training’s Chefs’ Academy, believes that this has been caused by a number of factors.

“There has been a decline over the last decade of young people wanting to be chefs,” he said. “The emergence of technology-based jobs could be a major factor in this.  Becoming a skilled chef takes time and motivation; successful chefs need to be able to demonstrate a passion not only for the hospitality industry as a whole, but also for the individual ingredients they work with!

“Even with the high profile rise of the ‘celebrity chef’, young people are put off by the high demands of the job, the need to start at the bottom of the ladder and the sheer amount of work needed to develop their career.

“In my opinion schools – let alone the hospitality industry – aren’t doing enough to promote apprenticeships as the stigmas associated with low pay and long hours remain.

“I frequently hear about good chefs leaving the industry in favour of better hours and pay elsewhere.  Employers need to work more collaboratively with training providers and schools in their areas, to raise awareness of the vast range of opportunities in this fantastic industry.”

Kitchens often have a reputation for being a fairly brutal place to work, but Steven Edwards, owner of Etch food and winner of MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 believes that the industry is changing.

“The hospitality industry is moving forward at such a fast rate,” he said. “Food is always evolving and changing. When I first came into the industry 10 years ago it was very different. Young chefs were often bullied and pushed around, and there was a lot of shouting in the kitchen.

“Now kitchens are much calmer and more methodical – it’s very different.

“There’s so many jobs out there now – there’s always the right job for the right person.”

HIT 2HIT Training is the leading specialist training and apprenticeship provider for the UK’s hospitality, hotel and catering industry, and Paul thinks that apprenticeships could be the answer.

He said: “Apprenticeships offer a real alternative to Further Education routes into the industry. Not only do they offer a recognised qualification but they give apprentices valuable experience of real life working situations and the foundations on which to build a fantastic career. A switched-on business can nurture, shape and support the managers of the future thus ensuring that the hospitality industry develops and retains this talent long term.

“Staff retention continues to be a huge concern for the industry – apprenticeships support natural progression for businesses to ‘grow their own’ and train their successors.  A proactive, forward-thinking business can help develop an apprentice in the best way to the best standards. It also provides a framework for training and teaches skills in a real life environment.

“Apprentices also benefit.  They experience structure and routine, and are given goals to work to.  They can see how they are progressing and as they become more adept in the variety of skills this industry has to offer, they are able to recognise the significant level of training investment and if supported correctly, take ownership of their development, hopes and aspirations.

“Apprenticeships also help young people develop their confidence and communication skills, which of course are key to this industry. Additionally, employers benefit as they are able to train and develop that young person in the way that best suits their business, nurture their skills and knowledge and retain them within the business as each grows and develops.”

While there’s no doubt that a career in hospitality (whether back or front of house) is demanding, it can also open up a world of opportunity.

“There is so much variety – no day is the same,” explained Paul. “The skills developed in a hospitality career can set you up for life. The industry continues to grow, innovate and challenge – it doesn’t stand still. There are always opportunities to travel worldwide or to move into different sub sectors such as training, HR and marketing.  Life skills, confidence and the opportunity to develop your personal skill sets are also great positives – there are no limits!

“Greater emphasis is needed throughout the industry to highlight how rewarding the sector can be, the variety of career routes within it and potential future earnings.  I also believe that more needs to be done about the variety of roles and sub sectors with the hospitality industry; we have TV chefs but society doesn’t promote the skills of front of house staff or other sections of the workforce in the same way. The hospitality industry needs to engage more with young people at their level. Yes, it can be a tough environment with demanding hours but it can also bring some great rewards.  Young people need to be able to see a balance, not just be thrown into the deep end.”

Lucknam Park HotelNicki Cotton, HR manager at Lucknam Park near Bath, agrees. “A lot of parents think that it’s all low pay and long hours,” she said. “But there’s so many benefits. Yes, entry level jobs are often minimum wage but there are many opportunities for development. And working in hospitality you really can make someone’s day, and there’s not many careers that can say that. I think it’s a fantastic business.”

For those considering a career in the industry Paul says that passion and personality are the keys to success.

“This is a service sector and you need to be flexible, open-minded and able to communicate with people at all levels,” he said.

“You need buckets of passion – the passion to deliver, a passion for people and a passion for food!  “You also need drive, a determination to succeed and above all, enthusiasm.

“If you are considering a career as a chef then research yourself. Identify what makes you tick – what sort of food do you like?  Which chefs inspire you? Read about cookery, read recipes and cook often.  “Cook at home, cook for your family and friends, and experiment with food and recipe ideas.  Cook to learn, and cook for fun.  Knock on doors, drop in a CV, and be tenacious.

“If you decide that you’d like to learn more about the hospitality industry and all of the roles that it offers, contact HIT Training.  The hospitality industry is recruiting and expanding – and we’re the most successful apprenticeship provider in the hospitality, hotel and catering sector.

“Last year, more than 20,000 young people gained a qualification, apprenticeship or job thanks to HIT. We work with 10,000 employers across the whole country and because all our trainer-assessors have worked in the sector and have practical experience of the job you’ll be learning, you can be sure that you’ll be in good hands!”

And HIT can also help businesses struggling to recruit.

Paul said: “We provide employers with tailored and award-winning training but first we’ll visit you, discuss your needs with you, your head chefs and HR personnel, and help identify what and who you need to help make a difference.

“Work-based learning is acclaimed by staff as the most successful learning route – so we work with employers to develop this into your organisation and embed the concept into your regular work practices.  We understand the needs of employers in the hospitality sector and can work alongside you, or take on your training and development function if you prefer, and ensure that your organisation’s individual training requirements are met.

“We can post vacancies with the National Apprenticeship Service on your behalf and use our social media and networking agencies to help spread the word. You will also gain access to our team of 600 trainer-assessors and to what we believe are the pre-eminent training programmes and qualifications available to drive the hotel and catering industry forward.”

HIT logo SquareTo find out more about training for a career in hospitality, or if you’re an employer and would like to discuss how apprenticeships could boost your business, visit www.hittraining.co.uk or call 0800 093 5892.