Get 'em while they're young

24 January 2008
Get 'em while they're young

The industry needs to capture the interest of schoolchildren and invest in training if it wants to recruit and retain skilled people, according to Nick Vadis, Compass Group UK & Ireland executive chef and chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs

The loss of food and cooking from the curriculum has had a significantly detrimental effect on our ability to recruit. With no knowledge imparted to our young people about food, how can a basic understanding, let alone a passion, be developed?

The key is to get them at the critical 14-16 age. We need to fire up their interest and demonstrate the opportunities available in food service when making a decision on their future. It is down to all of us to invest in youth to ensure the future success of our industry.

By giving a taster, with initiatives such as Compass's Junior Chefs Academy (JCA) and new Junior Restaurant Academy, we can encourage young people to fill the skills shortage we have.

JCA has proved able to capture the imagination of young people. Not only does it give a basic grounding in nutrition and healthy eating, but it has also been extremely successful in convincing about 68% of its 2,000 students to date to undertake full-time hospitality courses.

Springboard and its Future Chef programme is another great example of how to encourage and nurture young talent into the hospitality sector.

I also strongly believe that competitions are a great showcase for the industry and add real value to the development of young chefs. They create a competitive edge and develop confident and professional individuals.

At Compass, we have invested heavily in our own Junior and Senior Chef of the Year competitions. I have made a conscious decision to put forward many of our younger chefs at the forthcoming Hotelympia to compete as part of the Compass culinary team.

Training and development underpins the very fabric of success for our industry. Once we get interest at a young age, it is vital we develop people so that they go on to realise their full potential.

Teaching a basic understanding of food and cooking to young pupils can spark a lifelong interest in hospitality. There was good news on this front this week when the Government announced that cookery lessons would be compulsory for 11- to 14â€'year-olds in English secondary schools

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