This week (18-22 October) is Hospitality Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of apprenticeships in the culinary and hospitality sector. It’s also a chance to showcase the unique and diverse range of careers that are available.
This year we will be training almost 100 hospitality apprentices for a wide range of well-known hospitality companies, so we’ve taken a closer look at why so many great employers look to us to train their apprentices.
On 24 September, Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in the heart of London celebrated the graduation of its classes of 2020 and 2021.
Around 200 students donned mortarboards and gowns and received their diplomas for completing courses and training in culinary arts, kitchen and larder, hospitality and events, patisserie and restaurant service.
For Sharon Barry, the college’s Head of School for Hospitality Apprenticeships, watching the ceremony and celebrations that followed also marked the end of another successful year for the college’s apprenticeships team.
Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) is part of the Capital City College Group. Most of the Group’s apprentices are trained by its specialist training arm, called Capital City College Training. But uniquely, the hospitality and culinary apprentices are all trained at WestKing’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.
This is for a very good reason. The college has a long-standing reputation in the hospitality industry, earned over many decades, of providing the highest quality training for young chefs and other restaurant and hotel staff. So, it makes sense for the Group’s chef apprentices to be trained by Westminster Kingsway College’s expert chef lecturers, in the college’s industry-grade kitchens. And, the college’s reputation in the hospitality sector is so strong, that employers know and trust WestKing to train their apprentices to a very high standard.
So far this academic year, 76 apprentices have enrolled on WestKing’s Chef de Partie and Commis Chef apprenticeship programmes, with another 19 due to enrol in Nov, making 95 in all. And, as Sharon explains, there is a greater need than ever before for well-trained apprentices.
“Even before COVID there was a shortage of chefs in the industry; now there is a massive shortage of chefs, as restaurants, hotels and other hospitality venues open up after the pandemic.
That isn’t the only thing that has changed in the industry, says Sharon: “Many employers are looking at their recruitment more than they had before the pandemic. They want to upskill their staff and they need people who have got a wider skill set – people who can move around kitchens and take on a variety of tasks. Taking on an apprentice enables employers to do that.”
Like most apprentices, those studying at Victoria have a full-time paid job – typically in a restaurant or a top hotel – and attend college one day each week to learn additional skills. “Apprentices need to know a lot.” says Sharon. “Even in the biggest restaurants, someone won’t be doing all the things that they need to know to successfully complete their apprenticeship, so coming to WestKing – combined with the skills they learn in their jobs – makes them more rounded, highly skilled and employable. The feedback we get from our employers is that they like the way we do things.”
“The majority of our apprentices come to us direct. We know what good quality culinary and hospitality apprenticeship vacancies are available, so we sit down with prospective apprentices, get to know them, and point them in the direction of vacancies that might be right for them – trying to match them up with suitable employers.
“Then they apply for the vacancy and go for an interview with their prospective employer. And if they are successful, they get the job and come back to us one day each week for their apprentice training.”
So which companies trust Westminster Kingsway College to train their apprentices? It’s a who’s who of hospitality employers, including: Harrods; the contract caterers Compass; Hilton hotels; The Landmark Hotel; The Waterside Inn (Alain Roux’s 3 Michelin-starred restaurant); The Dorchester hotel; the Grosvenor House Hote; The Ritz; the pub chain Fullers; and Le Gavroche.
One such apprentice is 18 year old Guy Sherman, who last year was on a Commis Chef apprenticeship while working at The Dorchester hotel. In June, Guy was interviewed by the leading hospitality magazine, Chef, and he was full of praise for the college. He said: “The support from the college has been exceptional, always pushing me to enter new competitions. In the middle of 2020 I entered the International Salon Culinarie where … I managed to walk away with two medals.”
Guy is far from being the only apprentice to have gained from the experience. Everyone benefits from a hospitality apprenticeship, says Sharon. “The apprentice has a paid job, and they are learning all the time. They are learning while they are doing their day job, and they are learning those extra skills when they are here on their day-release. And the employer gets a highly-trained specialist with more knowledge and expertise than they would have if they weren’t on their apprenticeship. It’s a win-win.
“I truly believe in what we offer here.” Sharon concludes, as she looks ahead to the coming year with a new group of apprentices. “It’s nice to see the new apprentices progress, even after a few weeks, when I do lesson observations, I can see they are more confident already.