Hospitality employers and educational establishments have been urged to work much more closely together to address the significant skills challenges that the industry is facing.
Over the past year Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Oliver Peyton have gone on record to deride the quality of students produced by UK catering colleges, but going it alone is not an option, experts warned last week.
Speaking at the annual Professional Association of Catering Excellence conference at Whittlebury Hall, Towcester, Northamptonshire, Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said working in partnership with colleges to train staff was "essential". It was especially vital for staff at managerial and supervisory level, he added, as "in my experience people don't leave companies - they leave people".
The new 14-19 hospitality diplomas, due to launch next year, have been hailed as a potential solution to skills problems. But they will succeed only through an equal partnership between employers and educators.
That was the warning from Kay Johnson, section manager for hospitality at South Trafford College in Cheshire, who spearheaded the college's innovative training academy set up seven years ago with local restaurateur Paul Heathcote. "Work in partnership with industry because you have to," she said. "You can't respond to these challenges alone if you want to grow and be sustainable."
Mike Stapleton, corporate affairs director at Compass Group, which at any one time has 2% of vacancies unfilled, agreed. He said that while further education had been neglected and underinvested in recent years with quality highly variable across the UK, "education remains the key driver to recruit and retain staff".
Steve Munkley, executive chef at the Royal Garden hotel in Kensington, London, stressed that industry was keen to work with educators.
"If you're not turning out students we won't have a workforce," he said. "Yes, some chefs are derogatory about colleges because they haven't gone in and talked to lecturers. But ultimately they want to be invited in."
By Chris Druce
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