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The Diploma in Hospitality – a new map for the skills maze

24 August 2009
The Diploma in Hospitality – a new map for the skills maze

The new Diploma in Hospitality makes its debut in schools and colleges in England next month. With so many industry qualifications already on offer, Oksana Higglesden from People 1st explains how the diploma fits in.

Accommodating the skills needs of the diverse industry that is hospitality can be a challenge, since it requires a wide range of qualifications to reflect the development needs of employees at different stages of their careers.

Sector Skills Council for hospitality People 1st recently streamlined its portfolio and removed duplicated qualifications to make the process and career progression routes simpler and clearer. Research conducted by People 1st last year, highlighted that employers were confused about what was available and wanted clearer pathways to help their employees to develop their skills, as well as meet the specific needs of their business.

Since then, the purpose and title of all hospitality qualifications have been redefined to provide greater clarity on whether they are aimed at someone studying full-time before entering hospitality; developing employees already at work; or focusing on specialist areas such as drinks licensing, health and safety, or legislation affecting hospitality. Other qualifications have been refreshed and several new ones added where employers have identified a need.

To help employers and employees to navigate the qualifications maze, People 1st has developed a career map which highlights progression routes for different roles. This, as well as the qualifications for specific posts, can be found on the People 1st website at www.people1st.co.uk.

The new suite of hospitality qualifications broadly falls into three main categories:

â- Pre-employment qualifications for those at college;
â- Workforce development for those already in work and building on their skills.


The two main programmes in hospitality for those aged 14-19 include the Diploma in Hospitality as well as the Young Apprenticeship in hospitality.

The diploma aims to introduce young people to the different facets of the hospitality industry as well as provide an insight into the range of career opportunities available. It has been designed to have a solid industry focus, with a heavy reliance on work-related learning and 10 days' work experience. About three-quarters of UK secondary schools and 88% of colleges have signed up to teach the qualification from this September.

The diploma is intended to be robust, challenging, stimulating and flexible, after extensive consultation with employers and industry. It means that students will, for the first time, be able to gain a Diploma in Hospitality equivalent to five GCSEs (foundation level), seven GCSEs (higher) and 3.5 A levels (advanced). As the higher and advanced diplomas are post-16 qualifications, students can progress to higher education, an apprenticeship or into work.

According to Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st: "The fact that hospitality will be taught in schools with a curriculum developed by employers is a great opportunity to change kids' perceptions about our industry. These perceptions will be impacted by their placements with local employers. If these are good, they'll win hearts and minds for the industry."

While the diploma is ideal for those who do not know anything about the hospitality industry, those who have a specific idea of which area they would like to specialise in may be better suited to embarking on a Young Apprenticeship programme.

The focus of this two-year programme is very much on giving 14- to 16-year-olds the skills, knowledge and experience they need within a real work setting in hospitality and includes 50 days' work experience. Young apprentices can choose from a number of areas including receptionist, waiter/waitress, restaurant manager, head chef, commis chef, housekeeper, concierge/hall porter, barista or contract caterer.

In addition to studying the core subjects of English, maths, science and information technology, Young Apprentices would be expected to achieve a level 2 qualification in hospitality and food safety, and, in some cases, health and safety.

Foundation learning tier

Not all young people are suited to taking a Diploma in Hospitality or a Young Apprenticeship programme. The new foundation learning tier in hospitality has been introduced to enable them to improve their skills and work towards a level 1 and 2 vocational qualification.


Many hospitality qualifications on offer tend to be full-time vocation-related qualifications taken at college, combining theory, practical skills and continual assessment. These are mainly for those who wish to learn specific technical skills for a particular role such as the professional cookery diploma or, in some cases, as a route into higher education, and include BTECs, HNCs and HNDs.

Professional cookery diploma

The old industry standard - City & Guilds 706, favoured by many chefs - has been replaced by a rigorous new industry standard, the level 2 professional cookery diploma. This qualification, also available at levels 1 and 3, has revolutionised the delivery of cooking skills in colleges and significantly reduced the need for remedial training from employers.

The two-year programme, delivered in colleges, is designed to prepare more skilled young chefs for work in a commercial kitchen and make sure that they are "work-ready" and have the required industry skills, knowledge and personal attributes to "hit the ground running". On completion of the programme, students are graded and expected to have a solid foundation of skills in cooking techniques, perform under workplace pressures, have a broader understanding of different types of cuisine and food safety, and a better knowledge about cooking and sourcing ingredients.

As this programme is robust and challenging, colleges are for the first time screening candidates on application for motivation and suitability.


These qualifications are intended for those already in work and who wish to achieve formal recognition of their skills and competencies or to develop specialist knowledge, for example, management and supervision, health and safety or legislation.

National Vocational Qualifications

NVQs are one of the main types of qualification taken in the workplace. Rather than provide new information and knowledge, they are specifically intended to assess the skills and abilities that employees have gained in their day-to-day performance and whether they are competent in their role.

To gain an NVQ - available at levels 1 to 4 - individuals must compile a portfolio of evidence to highlight their skills and competencies and be observed in the workplace or by an assessor. While NVQs complement other work-related qualifications such as certificates and diplomas, they are not suitable for being taught to those without any industry knowledge or experience.

Specialist vocational qualifications

Specialist qualifications are ideal for employees to build on their existing industry knowledge and skills or focus on specific areas. The hospitality industry offers a range of specialist vocational qualifications covering management and supervision, licensing requirements, fine or casual dining, health and safety, and legislation affecting the hospitality industry. For example, the level 2 award in food safety in catering ensures that caterers have sufficient knowledge and competence to handle food safely and be aware of associated food hazards.

There is also a host of specialist qualifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, which People 1st supports, including the level 1 foundation certificate in wines, level 2 professional certificate in spirits and the level 3 advanced certificate in wines and spirits.


Also referred to as "learn as you earn", Apprenticeships in hospitality are available at levels 2 and 3 and provide a grounding in different facets of hospitality leading to roles in restaurant management, fine dining, school meals, events, front-line operations, housekeeping, events and licensed retail.

â- For further information on workforce development, visit www.uksp.co.uk.

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