College leaders have urged hospitality operators to play a more active role in helping catering students to prevent "raw talent going to waste".
The appeal comes in the wake of recent criticism by Marco Pierre White and Oliver Peyton, who described catering colleges as "the biggest waste of time" and "a disgrace", respectively.
Philip Norris, manager at Merton College in south London, told Caterer that there must be more input from the industry. "Some operators make students cut strawberries for three weeks rather than giving them a proper chance to learn on the job, and this must change," he said. "London's West End is screaming for new talent but unless operators start to provide hands-on opportunities a lot of raw talent will go to waste."
Norris's comments were echoed by David Foskett, professor of hospitality at Thames Valley University, who said that while White's criticism had some truth to it, the industry needed to look at the problems and help to improve matters.
"People like Marco need to get together with us to help solve the problems," he said. "We're not perfect and, while it's no good just dismissing his points, we need to get people like him to work together with us."
Norris added that operators must also help students financially as it was often up to colleges and students to pay work experience-related expenses. "Some of our students come from very underprivileged backgrounds and can't afford the travel costs to go and do work experience in central London," he said. "It can't only be up to colleges to help pay their expenses."
By Kerstin Kühn
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