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The Caterer

Don't let this opportunity go begging

03 January 2007
Don't let this opportunity go begging

Specialised Diplomas could educate and inspire a future workforce, says David Morgan-Hewitt, chairman of the St Julian Scholars

This year we have an amazing opportunity to introduce our industry to schoolchildren - but I fear we're going to miss it.

Specialised Diplomas will start in schools over the next few years. Our industry has been included in the second group and the academics are now formulating the syllabus. Schools will soon be able to teach catering to 14- to 16-year-olds (instead of five GCSEs) or to 16- to 18-year-olds (instead of three A levels).

But this is where the work really begins. We must now persuade schools to teach our syllabus rather than the others on offer. We all need to unite to lobby schools and persuade them to teach our diploma, as sadly most schools will instinctively not choose our course. After all, most school careers advisers recommend any jobs except those in catering and some teachers and parents still think jobs in hospitality are an admission of their child's failure.

So why should they change and include our diploma in their curricula? It's hard to overstress the enormity of this challenge. This is the greatest opportunity to recruit new people to our industry for a generation.

Recently I've been dismayed by the mistrust of industry bodies towards each other and the lack of interest and knowledge of this opportunity among industry professionals.

Education is the future of our industry. As chairman of the St Julian Scholars I've experienced the real benefits of education on young professionals. The scholarships and the alumni's continuing educational work enables scholars to grow and develop. These Specialised Diplomas provide the opportunity to educate and inspire a whole new workforce for the future. Some will become great waiters, receptionists, room attendants, managers or directors. But if schools don't take up our course, the next generation of children will become great plumbers, carpenters and TV presenters.

My greatest concern is that the disjointed nature of our wonderful profession will mean that, once again, we miss a golden opportunity. We must grasp it with both hands.

• For more views, attend the Master Innholders General Managers Conference at the Dorchester hotel on 15 and 16 January. For tickets, visit www.masterinnholders.co.uk

What's the most attractive aspect of hospitality?

Chris Piper, director, contract caterer Artizian "The reason I joined the industry and love it and stay with it is because it's primarily about people. It's one of the few industries in which you can genuinely see and help develop the people in it. There are no glass ceilings or barriers. It allows you to meet a talented raft of individuals and represents an absolute love of service."

Gary King, director, hospitality recruitment firm Collins King
"I first got into it because I wasn't good enough to be a footballer. There's great variety and opportunities. This is a vibrant, enjoyable industry where personality really counts and you can get promoted quickly. For example, if you study to be a chef, you can go on to be involved in food, beverages or the kitchen."

Mark Fuller, founder, nightclub and restaurant group Embassy
"This is a strange line of work; it's hard and there are long hours. But ultimately there's a glamorous side to it and there's nothing like the satisfaction of seeing lots of smiling faces at the end of a night. You don't get that in any other industry, unless you're a pop star. It's all about good food, ambience and the customer response."

Kirsten Falk, general manager, the Roof Gardens "This line of work makes sure you get a lot of variety in your day. There are so many different aspects to it and it's international. I meet people from all over the world and usually within a positive environment, because people come to us for good times, parties and social occasions."

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