The Centres of Excellence are a government funded initiative to train unemployed people to become chefs specialising in Asian and Oriental cooking. The approach of addressing skills shortages through a six week pre-employment training programme, followed by an apprenticeship, is a pilot scheme but there are a handful of places left to fill from the original 50 apprenticeships that were funded.
According to Suzy Jackson, executive director of the Hospitality Guild, “There are over 11,000 Asian and Oriental restaurants throughout the UK – roughly one in ten of all restaurants – employing over 70,000 people. We have leading employers in the sector signed up and committed to offering apprenticeship programmes but we’ve not been able to fill the final handful of training places we have available. It’s encouraging to see that a third of young people would consider a career within Asian and Oriental cuisine but we need to collectively work together to reach them and explain the fantastic opportunities available to help people find worthwhile jobs.”
Nearly 40 high profile Asian and Oriental restaurants have committed to taking on apprentices, including the Cinnamon Club, Blue Elephant and La Porte des Indes, Tamarind Restaurants, Hakkasan Group, the Brilliant, Café Spice Namaste, Lasan, and China Express.
Suzy continued, “With high levels of youth unemployment it’s frustrating that employers are still struggling to recruit and we can’t fill our apprenticeship scheme. In a recent Omnibus survey, we found out that almost ¾ of the British population (73 per cent) didn’t know that the hospitality industry has been booming and continues to recruit, so we are looking to spread the message far and wide! This is a great industry to be in and it should be considered as the industry of choice when you leave school.”
Aktar Islam, founder of award-winning restaurant, Lasan, which was crowned in 2009 as the UK’s best local restaurant by Gordon Ramsay, is planning to take on three apprentices. “I was pressurised by my family to get a professional white-collar job and a respectable career such as law, engineering or medicine. I went into catering and hospitality, which they were not too happy about at the time. Now they are proud of me.”
Other findings from the YouGov survey reveal that 36 per cent of respondents, who would consider working in an Asian and Oriental restaurant, think that it would be fun to work in this industry. Cyrus Todiwala OBE, founder of Café Spice Namaste, who has certainly contributed to the reputation of this industry not only through his many regular TV appearances said: “I was nicely surprised about the findings of the survey. It is a very exciting industry to be in! I have been in it for several decades and still absolutely enjoy every single minute of it. Training is key and I am glad to see apprenticeships gaining more recognition as they are the most essential route to developing a career for any individual.”
The Centres of Excellence are set up in five colleges across England, chosen for their high quality of teaching standards and specialist knowledge of Asian and Oriental cuisine: Westminster Kingsway College, University of West London, Leeds City College, University College Birmingham, and Trafford College.
Applicants will take part in a FREE six-week pre-employment programme, which includes training and work experience with an employer. Taking part in the programme won’t affect their benefits if they claim jobseeker’s allowance. The programme will equip them with fundamental skills such as customer service, food safety, and health and safety – and a nationally-recognised qualification, the Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry. At the end of the programme they are guaranteed an interview with a prospective employer for either a job or a paid apprenticeship in Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese or Thai cuisine.
The Hospitality Guild has been working closely with industry careers specialists Springboard UK as well as the main professional associations representing the Asian & Oriental cuisine industry to recruit people and employers to the programme.
Anne Pierce, Chief Executive of Springboard UK, said: “Many young people don’t know that they can go for a career in this vibrant and fast moving sector. We are delighted to be involved in promoting the training programme and specialist apprenticeships at the five Centres of Excellence and helping young people develop the confidence they need to put themselves forward and start their career in the dynamic Asian & Oriental Sector.”
Yawar Khan, Chairman of the Federation of Bangladeshi Caterers UK, said: "Our Federation welcomes this initiative and we think that by joining forces with colleges, People 1st and the Hospitality Guild, our industry will be able to train home grown talent and overcome the challenge of not being able to recruit skilled staff from abroad."
For more information and inspiring case studies visit www.hospitalityguild.co.uk or follow us on Twitter @OneVoiceHG