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Viewpoint: The T level may have been delayed, but that’s the least of our staffing problems

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Viewpoint: The T level may have been delayed, but that’s the least of our staffing problems

Pupils are being turned off a vocational education, exacerbating the chef shortage, says Martin-Christian Kent, executive director, People 1st

Chef recruitment is currently severe, with hospitality employers across the UK complaining of a lack of fresh, trained talent applying for vacancies in their businesses. The demand keeps growing, with the latest projections showing that
we’ll need an additional 11,000 chefs by 2024.

To effectively tackle the projected shortage, having good-quality chef programmes in place is critical. One of the hot topics in the sector press last week was the concerns about the delay to the introduction of the new T levels for hospitality. The T levels are new two-year programmes that will be delivered full-time in further education and are designed to meet the needs of specific sector occupations.

We’ve welcomed their introduction and believe that they will complement the new apprenticeship standards that are being delivered in the workplace. The fact that the hospitality programmes are not due to be introduced until September 2022 is disappointing, but is unlikely to have any significant impact.

The T levels will replace the diploma in professional cookery that was designed by the industry to give a broad range of skills and has many characteristics of the popular City & Guilds 706 1 and 2. The diploma has proven to be a reliable qualification and has played a critical role in ensuring that chef students are leaving further education with a rounded skills and knowledge base.

The delay over the introduction of the T level is not the most critical issue facing college provision. The real challenge is attracting more students onto chef programmes and, critically, making sure they enter and stay in the industry on completion of their course. Our forthcoming research into the chef shortage reveals that colleges are concerned that too many students are not seeing the technical educational options, as schools are directing pupils to stay on in sixth form.

Similarly, careers information and guidance is often inadequate. This is an area we hope will be rectified when the government announces its plans around careers guidance in the coming months and we support the calls for a much-needed sector-wide careers campaign to promote opportunities.

The other challenge is the transition of students into the industry. Too many students are leaving hospitality due to stress and long hours and we need to do more to ensure we can retain and develop the thousands of chef students leaving further education each year. More employers are looking at how they better hold onto their chefs, and given the shortage, how they can maximise their links to colleges, as well as take advantage of the changes to the apprenticeships in England.

Our research shows that the chef shortage is not inevitable and can be addressed, but it requires some fresh approaches and co-ordinated efforts across the industry and government.

For a free copy of the People 1st research into the chef shortage, visit:

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