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Nick Nairn champions national apprentice scheme: “we have a crisis situation”

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Nick Nairn champions national apprentice scheme: “we have a crisis situation”

Chef Nick Nairn is calling on the Scottish government to give more young people the opportunity to learn through apprenticeships.

He is to meet with employability minister Jamie Hepburn to discuss the option of creating more apprenticeship schemes to help to tackle the nation’s chef shortage.

Nairn, who heads the Nick Nairn Cook School in Stirlingshire and Aberdeen; and the Kailyard Restaurant by Nick Nairn at the Hilton Dunblane Hydro said: “Overall, we have a crisis situation. We have a shortage of chefs for a whole host of reasons but the bottom line is if guys like myself and Andrew Fairlie [the two-Michelin-star who heads his eponymous restaurant at Gleneagles] are chasing for staff then it must be very difficult for people who don’t have that kind of presence.

“I would like to see a proper apprentice scheme in place where good kids are put in to decent kitchens to learn, rather than be seen as cheap labour.”

In Scotland there are already apprenticeship frameworks in place such as the Hospitality: Professional Cookery Level 3 MA. However, the government has said it will create additional training places if there is sufficient industry demand.

Hepburn said: “Nick’s comments reinforce the views of a wide range of companies that Scotland must continue to be able to access skills and labour from within the EU. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and we have set out proposals for how our place in the single market could be retained.

“We will take action to mitigate the impact where we can. Our Modern Apprenticeship programme will deliver 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships by 2020 and skills Development Scotland works through Industry Leadership Groups to ensure that skills gaps are addressed. However this will only go some way to alleviating the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s workforce – and so we will continue to press the UK government to have our own powers over migration policy.”

Nairn claims that a lot of talent has been “sucked out of the pool of chefs by the glamorisation of stages” and the ability to work anywhere in the world.

He hopes that after speaking with his colleagues and the government a system can be set up to monitor the apprentices to see how many succeed and go in to employment.

Currently the industry is struggling with depressed restaurant prices, food inflation and Brexit uncertainties on top of the shortage. Kitchens are also having to pay out more in wage costs, hiring agency staff and paying overtime. “Commis are earning more than sous chefs which is just unsustainable,” Nairn added.

He posted a video to Twitter last week (1 August) about the struggle and called on chefs to join him at the Kailyard Restaurant which received a roaring response from the industry.

Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, has also expressed concerns about the shortage. She said: “This was already an acute problem for restaurants before the Brexit vote and we now face a predicted shortage of over eleven thousand chefs by 2020. This shortage isn’t limited to European chefs but also applies to highly skilled chefs from India and China. Restaurants are being squeezed by immigration rules and, although the industry is making moves to encourage UK nationals to see the career opportunities available, we still need access to chefs who have the knowledge and understanding to teach the next generation.

“The UK’s fourth largest sector needs the next government to step up and play their part to help us change the perception of our industry. The BHA has submitted a 10-year strategy to all political parties which outlines how our industry will do this and we look forward to working with the next government on making this happen.”

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