Leading chefs have praised the impact of education body City & Guilds' new professional cookery diplomas which are halfway through their pilot year.
The Vocationally Related Qualifications were introduced last September to replace the 706 qualification, which was scrapped following the introduction of the National Vocation Qualification (NVQ) in 1988.
The diplomas, which see students complete 12 mandatory units to gain a level 1 or 2 certificate, are running at 15 catering colleges across the UK.
Speaking at a City & Guilds event in London last week, Andreas Antona, Michelin-starred chef-proprietor of Simpsons in Birmingham, said there was a real need to overhaul the existing NVQ system. "There's a big vacuum in terms of training at the moment and a real lack of skills," he said. "When a person has an NVQ it actually says nothing about their abilities. It's just a process and it's not enough."
This was echoed by David Nicholls, executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, who said the restaurant industry would benefit from highly trained newcomers. "We have little ability to measure the training levels achieved by individuals other than their word," he said. "A certificate or diploma that's measured by results in theoretical and practical terms is the way forward."
City & Guilds sector general manager Dr Sally Messenger added: "As with 706, employers can be confident that graduates will arrive with a full range of cooking skills."