A new apprenticeship scheme has been launched for chefs and front-of-house staff to bring on the next generation of industry professionals.
The Academy of Hospitality Great Britain (AHGB), which has been launched at Cheadle House, a De Vere Venue conference and training centre at Manchester Airport, is a joint venture between the Alternative Hotel Group and Marylebone Warwick Balfour - operators of De Vere Hotels, Resorts & Venues, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin - and the National Apprenticeship Scheme.
Support for the programme, which has an initial funding of £1.7m, is provided by Stockport Council, Connexions and Nestlé Professional.
If successful, the AHGB is likely to be rolled out nationwide across 10 to 12 centres with £30m of funding earmarked by the National Apprenticeship Scheme.
The first group of 60 students, aged between 16 and 24, began their training last month at Cheadle House and are working towards achieving a NVQ level 2. A further three cohorts of students will join the centre in April, July and October.
"The feedback from the first group of apprentices has been brilliant and extremely positive," said Kellie Rixon, managing director of AHGB and former human resources director of De Vere.
"We have recruited on potential, not educational qualifications or experience. We have some exceptional people on board who are really flourishing in the environment, which is geared towards reality to ensure they will be job ready at the end of the programme."
Apprentices, who are paid the national apprentice rate of around £100 per week, include school and college leavers, as well as those previously not in education, employment or training. They can choose to join either a 12 week customer service or a 16 week professional cookery programme.
Four days a week are spent in the classroom, with the fifth day working in industry - currently either at a De Vere or Malmaison property.
Rixon is also talking to other hotels beyond the Alternative Hotel Group about training opportunities for the apprentices. "Everyone is 100% behind the scheme as there is nothing else like it currently in existence."
Rixon said that the first apprentices started their training 167 days after she and Richard Balfour-Lynn, chief executive of the Alternative Hotel Group, had first discussed the idea of setting up AHGB.
AHGB's second training centre is to be set up at Wychwood Park, a De Vere Venue near Crew, Cheshire, with a third planned for near Milton Keynes.
By Janet Harmer
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