Operators have been urged to help prepare for the forthcoming hospitality diploma to ensure the qualification lives up to expectations. Nick Huber reports
Martin-Christian Kent, research and policy director for People 1st, the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality industry, said he hoped that at least nine companies would become "industry champions".
These companies would publicise the benefits of the diplomas for employers, and help forge links between local employers and the schools and colleges teaching the courses.
Kent said that employers could ask for information packs on the diplomas from People 1st or one of the other organisations involved, such as Springboard.
The hospitality diploma - a mixture of practical skills, work placements and classroom learning - is one of 17 vocational diplomas. Each will act as a practical alternative to GCSEs and A levels, offering students the opportunity to learn about a particular industry (see panel).
Industry figures said the diploma could help improve the image of the hospitality among young people and help to ease the industry's skills shortage.
Mike Stapleton, head of corporate affairs at Compass Group UK & Ireland, said: "It has the potential to create a new stream of home-grown employees for the industry. We are gagging for it."
He added that the diploma could help counter the industry's negative image among some young people as "an industry you go into if you can't get into anywhere else".
Duncan Palmer, managing director of the Langham hotel in London, called for employers, parents and colleges and universities to work more closely to ensure that the hospitality diploma is a success.
"The colleges need to recognise the [level 3] diploma so that children can go from schools to colleges and universities," he said. "We also need to educate parents as to what a great industry we have. The hospitality diploma will only succeed if the industry gets to the parents."
But the question arises of how the industry will gauge the hospitality diploma's success. Palmer said that a fall in the average age of staff in the hospitality industry over the next five to 10 years, and an improvement in the quality of service in hotels, pubs and restaurants, would be evidence it had made a difference.
However, the new diplomas have had some critics. In the summer, education experts warned that the new diplomas could be a disaster, as nearly 90% of them were based on coursework and internal exams, as opposed to external exams. They said that this would make it hard to ensure that students and teachers did not cheat.
Employers' group the CBI has said that many employers had "serious reservations" about the value of diplomas in science, the humanities and languages - due to be introduced in 2011.
Richard Wainer, head of education and skills at the CBI, told Caterer that the lobby group supported the other diplomas, including the one for hospitality. But he said that one of the main challenges was getting enough specialist teachers to engage the students and make the courses different from those in traditional academic subjects.
Even with the most gifted teachers, the hospitality diploma risks becoming a second-class qualification unless employers play an active role. The next 12 months will help determine whether the diploma is a major advance for training and recruitment or just another missed opportunity.
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Five ways employers can make a difference:
- Get in touch with colleges and schools running the diplomas in your area to offer support.
- Give students and parents a tour of your business to give them an insight to the industry.
- Give students work experience in your business.
- Try to employ pupils who have passed the hospitality diploma, or offer them career advice.
- Hold open days.
Hospitality diploma: the lowdown
The new diplomas combine traditional academic subjects with vocational skills.
Pupils will study the same subjects as they would for GCSEs and A levels, with hospitality as a common theme. Units include learning about the importance of hospitality to the UK economy customer services and working in a team menu planning and finance, sales, marketing and law.
Pupils will also have 10 days' mandatory work experience and will normally do two days a week at a further education college.
The diplomas have three levels. Level one (ages 14-16) is worth 4â'5 GCSEs level two (also 14-16) is worth 5-6 GCSEs. Level three is the equivalent of 31/2 A levels.
All students will learn about the industry, and the knowledge and skills needed to work in restaurants, hotels, pubs and bars. Lessons will include kitchen and restaurant skills, and students will visit local catering outlets. Students can also study topics in more depth - for instance, learning about guest services in a hotel.
The hospitality and catering industry will be broken down into 14 sectors including hotels, contract catering, events, pubs and bars, and restaurants.
By Nick Huber
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