Skills shortages in UK kitchens seem set to worsen further over the next few years because of the Government's latest training shake-up, delegates heard.
Speaking during the "Question Time" session, Stuart Rhodes, team leader hospitality and catering at Harrogate College, said the recent demise of Training and Enterprise Councils in favour of the new Learning Skills Councils would create huge problems in training young chefs.
"The new Learning Skills Councils have decided to put more money into popular courses at the expense of poorly subscribed courses," he said. "That means, for example, that motor vehicle engineering courses are getting more money, but catering courses are getting less.
"So from September, engineering courses are extending from three to four years to allow students to cover the subject in more depth. But to do that, we may have to cut our Advanced Modern Apprenticeship course for chefs from three to two years."
Rhodes said it would be impossible to get many students up to NVQ level 3 standard in two years.
Part of the reason for the current skills crisis in UK kitchens is the lack of culinary education in schools, added Brian Turner, chef-proprietor of London's Turner's restaurant and star of the TV series Ready, Steady, Cook.
Turner mourned the fact that junior schools no longer taught pupils any basic cooking skills or anything about nutrition. "We need to lobby the Government to get food appreciation taught in junior schools in some shape or form." he said. "With that knowledge, pupils will then be able to go on to senior school with some basic skills before taking domestic science classes."