Apprenticeships – the best way to learn

19 July 2012
Apprenticeships – the best way to learn

Not only can apprenticeships get young people out of unemployment and offer them a whole range of potentially life-changing opportunities, these schemes have significant benefits for the employers who offer them. Elly Earls finds out why the UK Government's renewed interest in practical training is already having a significant impact on the hospitality sector

The word "apprenticeship" traditionally conjured up a vision of a young, oil-spattered trainee mechanic undertaking physically demanding work under the informal tutelage of an industry old hand. In hospitality, you'd have substituted the inexperienced mechanic for an eager young kitchen hand. Although these apprentices were given only the most menial of tasks to perform, they were paid and happy to learn, albeit informally, from industry old-timers who, at least, knew more than they did.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and apprenticeships have significantly evolved. "The term has been hijacked by recent governments to describe a training framework which is quite different," says John Cunningham, director of professional development at the Institute of Hospitality. "Apprenticeships are now available in a wide range of sectors and, of course, there are a number of pathways within the hospitality sector."

On-the-job training
So what exactly does a modern apprenticeship involve?

New-style apprenticeships, the vast majority of which are paid, combine on- and off-the-job training. An individual gains nationally recognised qualifications while working for an employer; the employer, in turn, benefits from a work-ready employee who can learn on the job.

"The aim is to equip the apprentice with technical expertise alongside the requisite soft skills that employers often say are lacking in the current generation," Cunningham notes.

In the hospitality industry, there are several available pathways for would-be apprentices. From housekeepers to receptionists, waiters to craft chefs, there are options to train as almost anything you could imagine within the industry. Apprenticeships are certainly no longer confined to low-level roles.

The two most popular forms of apprenticeships are Intermediate Level Apprenticeships (Level 2) and Advanced Level Apprenticeships (Level 3); the former, which takes from six to 10 months to complete, is equivalent to five good GCSE passes and is designed for those just getting their feet on the career ladder, while the latter, equivalent to two A Level passes, is designed for those who have either completed a Level 2 apprenticeship or have the relevant qualifications or experience. Advanced Level Apprenticeships take employees to a supervisory or technician level of competence and can take from eight to 18 months to complete.

Fast-growing sector
Anyone can undertake an apprenticeship provided that they have an employer that is willing to take them on and they are eligible to work. Indeed, there is an increasing number of schemes looking to bring those who traditionally would never have considered a career in hospitality into the fast-growing sector.

Galvin's Chance, for example, is an apprenticeship scheme that was launched in 2009 specifically to give disadvantaged, "at risk" young people a chance to work in the hospitality industry.

"Chris Galvin (pictured), chef-patron at Galvin at Windows and Fred Sirieix, his charismatic general manager, felt strongly that they wanted to inform and enthuse young people about the opportunities available in the hospitality sector, in particular with front-of-house roles," says Louise James, grants and communications manager at Hilton in the Community Foundation, which supports Galvin's Chance. "The programme provides a new opportunity for young people who have come through probation or who have faced other barriers to consider a front-of-house role; a career in hospitality may not be something they have come across before or considered."

Galvin's Chance joins the already huge selection of hospitality apprenticeships currently on offer in the UK, which includes the Accor Academie, leading apprenticeship provider Lifetime, the Greene King Apprenticeship Programme and the De Vere Academy of Hospitality, to name but a few.

"There is a renewed interest in practical and vocational training, which is great for young people and for the economy," James says.

Indeed, under the current Government, apprenticeships have increased at a record rate with official data published on 31 January 2012 showing 457,200 apprenticeship starts in the 2010/11 academic year, an increase of 63.5% over 2009/10. In hospitality and catering specifically, there were 29,810 apprenticeship starts in the 2010/11 academic year, up by 38.9% on 2009/10 and 77.5% on 2008/09.

For Cunningham, the key to the phenomenal growth in apprenticeships in recent years has been funding. "Governments have encouraged take-up by contributing millions of pounds to apprenticeship training," he says. "Employers can access this training for their staff for little or no money, thereby encouraging them to take on low-skilled staff that they may previously have overlooked."

And it's not just the employers and the economy that are benefiting. The lifetime benefits associated with the completion of apprenticeships at Level 2 and 3 are extremely significant, standing at between £48,000 and £74,000 for Level 2 and between £77,000 and £117,000 for Level 3 Apprenticeships.

Life-changing opportunities
Would-be apprentices have a huge range of options within the hospitality industry - from chefs to front-of-house staff, and even management roles.

For Lifetime apprentice Christian Abbott, it was the cookery side of the industry that really appealed, and during his apprenticeship with Lifetime, which started in November 2011 and is ongoing, he managed to earn the title of "Best Chef in the West 2012". He also won the opportunity to work in one of the country's top restaurants, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Raymond Blanc's Michelin-starred restaurant in Oxford. He has until the end of the year to accept this potentially life-changing offer.

Liam Frederick, on the other hand, was more interested in service roles, and after being referred by London Probation to Galvin's Chance following unemployment and trouble with the law, he began his training in October 2010. He successfully gained all the accredited certifications and earned a two-week work placement at RAC Club, where he was offered full-time employment in January 2011 and now works as a lounge/buffet attendant. He also attends Westminster Kingsway College completing an NVQ Level 2 Food & Drink Service part-time. "This programme has changed my life and I am working in a private members' club serving important people," he says.

Helen Heyhoe, who undertook Accor's advanced apprenticeship scheme, has also benefited a huge amount from her extra training. "While I was on the programme, I became a team leader," she says. "I then went on to do many supervisory roles within the F&B department and became Food & Beverage Manager of the Novotel Sheffield Centre] after three years," she remarks. "I'm now on the management development programme and aspire to be a rooms division manager next, and eventually a general manager."

Using apprenticeships to prepare for expansion
World-leading hotel operator Accor has been running successful apprenticeship programmes since 2004. "We have a completion rate of 80%, which is well above the national average and 50% of the people who have been through the programme since 2004 are still with us," says Philip Addison (pictured), HR director for the company in the UK & Ireland.

But with ambitious goals to expand the organisation to 300 hotels by 2015, Accor has decided to take apprenticeships to the next level. "What we're really trying to do is step up our involvement and use apprenticeships in a more strategic way than we have in the past," Addison notes.

Accor has therefore decided to launch the Management Apprenticeship Programme (MAP), the aim of which is to develop the future managers required to support the operator's ambitious expansion plans. The scheme will employ 100 18- to 24-year-olds per year, giving them on-the-job training and a national qualification: NVQ Level 2 and NVQ Level 3 together with a Diploma in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership.

"We're looking to get high-quality committed employees, so we want to offer a package that will attract strong candidates," Addison says. "We know historically that we have a good retention rate and the idea is to develop team leader, supervisors and eventually managers - as people progress through their career."

Alongside the MAP scheme, Accor is also piloting a programme called Hospitality Futures, which aims to offer 25 young unemployed people aged 18-24 a starting job in the industry. Following a nine-week foundation course, every participant will be guaranteed a job interview and, if successful, a job with Accor or another London hotel. "This is a slightly different type of scheme, as it's based more around social responsibility," Addison notes. "The objective here is to get as many of these people as possible into jobs - not only with Accor, but also with other hotel groups."

Five Benefits for Employers and Five for Apprentices

Benefits for employers

1 Improved business performance According to a Populus Survey of 500 respondents responsible for apprenticeship programme recruitment, 81% of businesses said that employing apprentices generates higher overall productivity for their company. Moreover, 92% of respondents believed that apprenticeship programmes create a greater level of motivation and job satisfaction among their staff.

2 Reduced costs Over two-thirds of respondents to the same survey felt that their programmes allowed them to lower both recruitment (67%) and training costs (71%), while enabling them to fill vacancies more quickly (68%) with a better calibre of job applicant (74%). The majority of respondents also believed that apprenticeship programmes lead to a lower level of staff turnover (82%).

3 Up-to-the-minute information Being involved in apprenticeship programmes means that businesses can keep pace with the changes in standards and working practices, helping make them more effective, productive and competitive by addressing their skills gaps directly.

4 Upskilled staff With much, if not all, of the training and assessment during apprenticeships taking place in the workplace, apprentices learn how your company operates and develop the skills your business needs, meaning they can add more value.

5 Return on investment Employers are able to recoup their investment extremely quickly, with the average apprenticeship paying back in between one and two years if the apprentice is retained, according to Evaluation of Apprenticeship: Survey of Employers 2012.

Benefits for Apprentices

1 Job satisfaction 92% of businesses believe that apprenticeship programmes create a greater level of motivation and job satisfaction among their staff. This is for several reasons, including but certainly not limited to the new and different challenges experienced during an apprenticeship scheme and the extensive support offered to apprentices.

2 Earn while you learn Even if an apprentice is entering work for the first time, they will start earning from day one of their apprenticeship, and as their skills develop their pay will increase accordingly. Apprentices may also get additional remuneration for essential books, clothing or equipment as well as receiving the same benefits as other employees such as pension contributions and leisure facilities.

3 Nationally-recognised qualifications All apprenticeships must include a competencies qualification, a technical knowledge qualification and either a key skills qualification, functional skills qualification or a GCSE with enhanced content.

4 No more tuition fees An apprenticeship is increasingly becoming a realistic alternative to attending university. "We know that tuition fees sometimes make it impossible for people to consider going to university," says Philip Addison, HR director for Accor in the UK & Ireland. "This is a real alternative to that."

5 Fast career progression Apprentices have the potential to reach managerial level much faster than employees who don't have any additional training. "By the time they're 21 or 22, they're likely to be well-established on the managerial ladder," Addison notes. Moreover, research has shown that apprentices earn significantly more throughout their career than other employees.

Common myths about apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are badly paid - or even unpaid "Perhaps the most common myth is that apprentices are paid less than their colleagues," says Louise James from Hilton in the Community. This simply isn't true. The minimum salary is £2.60 per hour (£2.65 from 1 October), but many apprentices earn significantly more. "Most of our employers also pay for day-release to enable the young people to attend college as part of their investment in the young person and the wider programme," James adds.

Apprenticeships are easy "Another myth is that apprenticeships are easy to achieve for anyone involved," James remarks. "In fact, a good apprenticeship involves serious hard work and commitment from the young person, their employer and their support network."

Apprenticeships only exist for low-level positions "You might be surprised to find out that the apprenticeships on offer at your local Further Education college are not just on kitchen skills," says Institute of Hospitality director of professional development John Cunningham. "FE colleges often offer front-of-house and even management training as part of an apprenticeship. Moreover, the Institute of Hospitality's Advanced Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management will shortly become part of the new Higher Apprenticeship in Hospitality Management."

Funding is only available to big companies "There are misconceptions that apprenticeships are available only to large employers," Cunningham notes. "Apprenticeships and the consequent funding are available to SMEs, although it is true that far fewer SMEs have engaged with apprenticeships than was intended."

Apprentices rarely complete their training "One common myth is that people don't stay on to complete their programme," Accor HR director Philip Addison believes. "But we have an 80% completion rate!" Moreover, 50% of Accor's apprentices since 2004 have stayed with for the company. is delighted to support the Think Again campaign because the hospitality industry provides a wide and diverse range of careers and is often not the first choice for those leaving school, college or university. This campaign will help to build awareness, raise the profile of this vibrant industry and the careers that exist.
Ian Burke, director,

Lifetime, one of the UK's leading vocational training suppliers and top 10 apprenticeship providers, is delighted to support the Think Again campaign, which encourages long-term investment in sustainable staff development in the industry.

Lifetime can help businesses secure government funding for work-based hospitality apprenticeships, while offering recruitment support to ensure employers hire the right people and improve both staff retention and customer service.
For more information call 0870 120 1207 or visit:

E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.

If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to jobs

Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with jobs

[Blogs on ]( Catch up with more news and gossip on all Caterer's blogs
[E-Newsletters]([ For the latest hospitality news, sign up for our E-newsletters
The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking