Contract catering has much to offer

18 May 2006
Contract catering has much to offer

Just as 23-year-old Jessica Cain was picking up first prize in the Olive Barnett Award at London's Claridge's on Monday evening this week, an almighty row was breaking out between contract caterers and colleges.

The reason why these two events are connected is that Jessica is one of the very few hospitality graduates who chose a career in the contract catering sector.

According to our research, only three hospitality students from Oxford Brookes University opted for the contract-catering sector, instead of more "glamorous" careers in restaurants or hotels. That's only 3% of students, a woefully low rate that's reflected elsewhere. At Thames Valley University, only one in 10 students is entering the food service sector.

A row has developed because contract caterers believe university lecturers don't help the sector improve to its profile among graduates, while the tutors believe it's the sector's fault for not "promoting" itself better.

It's not fair to put all the blame on colleges, but surely they have some influence over the decision-making of their students? It's not for us, as a pan-industry magazine, to judge whether one sector offers better career prospects than others, but clearly the number of graduates entering each sector should be more representative.

Look at Jessica, who is assistant manager at Compass division Milburns's contract at the Clifton Pavilion Bristol Zoo Gardens, aged only 23.

She's bright, articulate and has a massive future in the industry, which I'm sure is why she was chosen as this year's Olive Barnett winner.

Her award also reflects the fact that there are fantastic career opportunities in the contract-catering sector for promising hospitality graduates, a fact both industry and education leaders must support.

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