She said: “This is incredible. I can’t put it into words. This surpasses every achievement of my life. I don’t know how I’m going to top this. This is it, this is the peak, I think I’ve reached it!”
Her winning menu featured a starter of seabass cured in citrus dressing with smoked aubergine and spiced red pepper purées, followed by a main of crispy chicken thighs, tortellini filled with chicken, mushrooms and coriander topped with a coconut curry sauce, and for dessert a cardamom custard tart with poached apricots and a honey tuile.
Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace said: “Nikita opened up the larder of the world and brought us dish after stunning dish after stunning dish.”
Michelin-star chef Marcus Wareing said “She’s a chef that has grown right in front of our eyes. Her food has been sublime,” while fellow judge, chef and restauranteur Anna Haugh, added: “Nikita is on the road to creating a very unique cuisine. And that is why she’s our champion.”
Nikita, who works as a Junior Sous Chef at Michelin-star restaurant Kitchen W8 in Kensington, trained at the college’s School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria from 2016-19.
She undertook Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships, sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Cooks, at The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge and Claude Bosi at Bibendum in Kensington.
Nikita said: “My apprenticeship at Westminster Kingsway was a fantastic way to gain important foundational knowledge and skills, which compounded with real experience working in restaurant kitchens, set me up with both the skills and qualifications I needed to work in top Michelin-starred restaurants.
“I’m so glad I started my career on this apprenticeship. The guidance and extra support that made the job a little less daunting when I first started out.”
Nikita grew up in Derby and lived in India with her family for two years from the age of nine. As a child she would prepare meals with her mum, which inspired her love of Asian cooking.
After her apprenticeship at WestKing, she travelled for nine months around South East Asia, which further deepened her passion and appreciation for the region’s flavours and culinary styles.
Sharon Barry, Head of School for Hospitality and Culinary Arts Apprenticeships, said: “Nikita was a dedicated, passionate and highly motivated learner during her time at WestKing. It comes as no surprise that she has continued to grow and thrive within her culinary career.
“Winning Masterchef: The Professionals is a fantastic achievement, and we are all incredibly proud of her. She is a huge inspiration to all our current learners who has shown anything is possible if you believe in yourself and follow your dreams.”
Find out more and apply for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here and apprenticeships here.
A computer savvy former City and Islington College (CANDI) student is excited about his future after gaining a place on a degree apprenticeship with global tech giant IBM.
Imtiyaz Rahman, 18, secured his place on the BSc (Hons) Digital and Technology Solutions apprenticeship after achieving D*D*D on an IT Level 3 Diploma last summer.
He spends four days working at IBM’s offices in Southwark and the one day studying at Northeastern University London, a hub of the university in Boston, Massachusetts.
Imtiyaz, from Westminster, revealed that his uncle and cousins had been a big influence on his decision to pursue an IT career at an early age.
“My interest stemmed from an initial desire to play computer games with them when I was about seven. My uncle knew how to build PCs and told me about the hardware and the key things I needed to know, and I began to get into it in more depth,” he said
Imtiyaz’s interest grew as he began to find out more about how computers work and the different components needed to build them, which enabled him to upgrade his own PC.
“I’m interested in many different aspects of IT. On the one hand I’m interested in the hardware side, but since I’ve been at IBM I’ve been shown some new aspects of software and cloud-based technology that I never knew about, which has also piqued my interest,” he said
“I’ve also learnt about AI and quantum computers, which are faster, more powerful and beyond any computers that most of us know today.”
Imtiyaz heard about the apprenticeship through his friends at CANDI. He also applied for another at Lloyds Bank, which although unsuccessful helped him better prepare for his application to IBM.
“I had my focus dead set on going to university and that was the way to my future career, but then my classmates started to tell me about degree apprenticeships,” he said.
“I didn’t expect to make it. With UCAS application you send off your application and personal statement, but with the degree apprenticeship I had to answer a lot more questions on why I want this role and why I am good at it as well as face-to-face interviews and a presentation.
“When I got the call to say I had got on the apprenticeship I was in the middle of class. I walked out of my lesson to take the call and they asked me about my results. There was this daunting silence and then they said I’d got the role, and I was super happy.”
Imtiyaz explained that the diploma at CANDI gave him a realistic expectation of what it would be like to work in IT and how it is applied in business, while also preparing him for degree level study.
“When I’m doing assignments for university, I’m using the same approach and research skills I learnt at college. The practical side on my course also meant I am now able to look at someone’s coding and have a general idea what it means,” he said.
“The teaching was rigorous and intense. It was great to have teachers who had passion for their subject and wanted to see their students grow as people and improve their skills.”
Imtiyaz explained that the degree apprenticeship was a great option because IBM cover his tuition fees and he is not just getting an education but a career.
“What I’ve learnt is that no one really knows what they want to do for the future and not to plan or have too many expectations because situations are always changing, so keep your options open,” he said.
“I am happy for the future because this is a potential career opportunity at a great company that’s well known within the industry, which will give me the skills and experience over the next three years that I might not get just at university.”
Find out more about Computing and IT courses and apply here.
She said: “I already had experience working in facilities and knew it was a field that I enjoy working in and was looking at ways to build my knowledge to progress in my career.
“I felt like I lacked some of the theoretical knowledge and ways to put that into practice. The apprenticeship filled in these gaps and helped me with my development and understand more about the many different areas you can specialise in within facilities management.
“The training I received also made me much more confident in my job and pushed me to challenge myself within my role. It also gave me the opportunity to take on additional tasks and projects to develop my skills.
“By the end of my apprenticeship, I had managed to progress from Facilities Coordinator to an Assistant Facilities Manager for the UK.”
Born in Lithuania, Laura previously worked in hospitality management and moved into facilities management four years ago and has no regrets about her decision.
“I enjoy how versatile you have to be to work within this industry. It is a very fast-paced environment that grows and changes constantly,” she said.
“You get exposed to a lot of different fields from finance, procurement and mechanical and electrical services to sustainability projects, health and safety, and much more. It’s never dull and always challenging. It’s also very rewarding as you can see how your work positively impacts people and your ideas come to life.”
Margaret Gotlib, Head of Apprenticeships at CCCT, said: “Laura is one of the many success stories from our facilities management apprenticeship programmes, which we have been running with some of the UK’s leading organisations in the sector for more than 15 years.
“Our strong relationships with employers mean our highly experienced tutors are aware of the skills the industry needs and are training people to the highest possible standard to enable them to progress in their careers.”
Find out more about our Facilities and Estates Management apprenticeships and apply here.
By Jackie Chapman, Managing Director, Capital City College Training
For years we have heard the same line: ‘the apprenticeship levy doesn’t work’ – whether that’s because of the disengagement of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME apprenticeship starts are half what they were before the levy was introduced), the drop in apprenticeship uptake by 16-18-year-olds, or the amount of unused levy returned to the Treasury (according to the Financial Times, employers have handed back more than £3bn in unspent levy cash over the last three years).
This is ineffective for the economy and unhelpful for the workforce. Apprenticeships should be a central part of the employment landscape for people of all ages. They are a genuine alternative to T Levels or university for many young people who are eager to start their careers sooner or learn on the job; and they are invaluable for adults already in the workforce, who want to develop new skills and qualifications without having to give up work to study.
But apprenticeship starts are now far lower than before the levy was introduced back in 2017. What can be done to reverse this? How can apprenticeships become popular again?
Recently, we attended the Labour and Conservative party conferences, where we hosted breakfast events with the London advocacy group BusinessLDN – discussions with our guests addressed apprenticeships and other pressing skills challenges.
As we see it, the apprenticeships challenge is threefold: firstly, how apprenticeships are promoted – especially to young people; secondly, how they are funded; and thirdly, how flexible they are – for employers, educators and apprentices.
If young people don’t know about apprenticeships, we can’t expect them to be interested in them. Many schools have failed to effectively point their 14–17-year-olds towards apprenticeships, as academic routes remain a central focus for schools.
The ‘Baker Clause’ should help this. Originally an amendment to the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 which was widely ignored by schools, the Baker Clause was made law in the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022. It requires schools to allow colleges and training providers access to every student in years 8 to 13 to discuss non-academic routes. It also states that schools need to impartially promote the full range of technical education qualifications and apprenticeships to their pupils.
The Baker Clause is an important part of a school or college’s careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) programme and, provided it is followed and enforced, it should widen pupils’ access to information about apprenticeships and other non-academic routes.
The introduction of T Levels may cause more confusion, so the message needs to be clear that apprenticeships are 80% in the workplace, whilst T Levels are 80% learning.
Funding and flexibility
The apprenticeship levy is the main mechanism for funding apprenticeships. Some £3.3 billion of unspent levy money has been returned to the Treasury over the last 3 years, so it’s fair to say that the level of funding is more than adequate.
Flexibility – what the levy money can be spent on and who can spend it – is where many of the problems, and opportunities, are. Businesses and apprenticeship providers have been calling on the Government to offer greater flexibility around the levy for years, but how would this look? And how would it work?
How do we improve the levy and encourage more apprenticeship starts?
It’s encouraging to see the Government responding to the sector’s conversations about the levy. In February of this year, Alex Burghart MP (then Skills Minister) introduced flexi-job apprenticeships and announced that businesses could transfer their surplus levy to other businesses to pay for their apprenticeship training.
Flexi-job apprenticeships aim to help sectors with short-term contracts to take on apprentices. Within this model, apprentices will be supported by their training provider to obtain multiple short-term contracts across different employers to complete their apprenticeship requirements.
We have already seen the benefits of this for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at CCCG’s training arm, Capital City College Training (CCCT). For instance, in the creative industry, CCCT have been working in partnership with the NextGen Skills Academy to enable SMEs who only focus on one key skill to cluster together to take on an apprentice. Each apprentice is subsequently able to learn each skill through a different business to complete their apprenticeship.
These initiatives are a positive step forward for helping to increase the number of apprenticeships, but there is a more fundamental issue for many employers which needs addressing – the cost of wages.
Employers tell us that they are deterred from taking on apprentices because they must pay their wages while the apprentice is still relatively inexperienced, especially when taking on 16–18-year-olds. In addition, many employers want to pay their apprentices more than the National Minimum Wage, because it’s the right thing to do and it would encourage more people to become apprentices.
So, we think that employers should also be able to use their levy funds to pay between half and two-thirds of their apprentices’ wage costs for the first year of their time with the company. Covering most of the salary for this period will help some employers pay their apprentices more and would be a powerful incentive to smaller businesses, as an extra pair of hands at a subsidised cost would never go amiss!
A levy reform along these lines could be structured like the Government’s Kickstart Scheme, released in September 2020. Kickstart provided funding to employers to create jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit, covering 100% of the National Minimum Wage – based on the workers’ age – for 25 hours per week.
By supporting employers with their wage costs in the short term, Kickstart enabled many small businesses to engage with young people and provide adequate support whilst they were developing their basic skills.
If the levy allowed for the funding of such a scheme, a valuable proportion of the apprentice’s salary would be paid until the they become skilled enough to not need continuous supervision – the reason why employers prefer to employ individuals who have sufficient skills to undertake the job. This flexibility will encourage employers to take on apprentices and will guarantee the apprentice a job at the end.
We’d also like to see levy flexibility go further, by allowing the transfer of the apprenticeship levy to the organisation that provides the apprenticeship training (typically a further education college or a private provider), so they can continue to support an apprentice when they change jobs – currently as soon as an apprentice ends their studies or changes employer, the provider can no longer support them. This initiative will also help boost apprenticeship completion rates, as apprentices are currently leaving at the point of triggering the End Point Assessment. Such a change would not cost anyone money, will allow colleges and training providers to use their unspent Levy funds, and will decrease the administration required for providers to sign up additional employers to support the final stages of an individual’s apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships can and should be a bigger part of the employment landscape. We think that increasing the flexibility of the levy will allow more employers take on more apprentices and will encourage more people to consider an apprenticeship. We’ll be advocating for these changes to the levy over the coming months.
What is the apprenticeship levy? And what are the problems with it?
The apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017 to create long term sustainable funding for apprenticeships. The levy is a 0.5% tax paid by larger employers (those with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million), which is stored in a fund and must be used to pay for the cost of apprenticeship training.
The idea was that the levy would encourage businesses to offer more apprenticeships, but unfortunately, the number of people starting an apprenticeship has fallen by around 50% since the levy was introduced. It also had some unintended consequences. For example, the House of Lords’ Youth Unemployment Reportfound that some employers use the levy to reshape existing roles into apprenticeships, benefitting those who already work for their company and are usually older and more experienced.
Other criticisms are that because the levy is only paid by large companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t pay it but have to use the online system to engage with providers and pay 5% to the cost of the apprenticeship. In addition, the apprenticeship system is considered too complicated and hard to navigate for employers and education providers alike. Perhaps because of these flaws, the number of SME apprenticeships has fallen since the levy started.
Michelin-star chef Michel Roux welcomed newly enrolled Hospitality and Culinary Arts students and apprentices as they got a flavour of life at Westminster Kingsway College.
Around 350 aspiring chefs, hoteliers and waiters attended the event at the college’s Victoria Centre on 13 September, which included cookery demonstrations, fun games and activities and trade stands from many of the hospitality industry suppliers that work with the college.
Michel, who owns La Gavroche restaurant in Mayfair, insisted there was a job for everyone in hospitality whether in the kitchen or front of house and stressed the importance of qualifications.
He said: “This is one of the best colleges in London. The Roux family have been sending its apprentices here for 40 years. The people who train here, like your good selves, achieve greatness.
“There are lots and lots of opportunities in our industry. Whatever you choose to do, always remember to keep smiling and enjoy it, and maybe one day some of you will be working alongside me.”
The new students enjoyed plenty of fun activities including trying their hand at icing and decorating cupcakes, making a crepe suzette and mixing mocktails.
WestKing works with a wide range of culinary industry partners, many of which were represented at the event.
Students learnt about the supply of fruit and vegetables with DDP Ltd and how to blend their own smoothies using various ingredients with kitchen equipment supplier Thermomix.
The event also featured stands from the Craft Guild of Chefs, The Caterer magazine, catering suppliers Flint & Flame, Koppert Cress and Mozzo Coffee, Compass Group and HRC, an annual expo for hospitality and food service professionals.
Also present was BSG, which gives hospitality and culinary students the opportunity to gain internships at prestigious private clubs, hotels and resorts in the United States.
There was also a free to enter raffle to win prizes including two tickets to see the musical Wicked at The Apollo, a basket of fruit, a chopping board from Rough Stuff Oak, a kitchen knife from Flint & Flame, a £50 Amazon voucher and copies of In a Class of Their Own, a book on the WestKing’s hospitality and culinary school’s history.
Sam Neil, 16, who has just started a Professional Chef Level 1 Diploma, said: “I’ve been interested in cooking for a few years. One of my grandad’s friends runs a catering company and suggested I look at working in hospitality. She said if you want to be a chef you should go to WestKing. My careers adviser at school told me it’s the best college they know for hospitality.
“Being a chef involves long hours, tough work but it’s a rewarding career. You get to show what you’re about through the food, rather than sitting in an office doing work you’re not interested in.
“I’ve really enjoyed today. It’s been good to meet some chefs and get a feel for what the hospitality industry is like. I’m only in the first few weeks of training and getting the basics done, but I’m properly excited to start cooking, get to know people and about the whole college experience.”
Ellie Paphitis, also 16 and studying the same course, said: “I’ve been enjoying cooking since I was young, especially baking and making pastries. I was going to go to sixth form and do A Levels, but I changed my mind because I wanted to do something I was really passionate about. I’ve tried a lot of things, but cooking is the one thing I’ve stuck with in my life. I also have a lot of influences in my family because they like to cook as well.
“A lot of us are aspiring to be like Michel Roux and it was very motivational and inspiring to hear from him. It made me feel like I’m not so far away, and if I really try my best and work towards what I want to be, then I can do it.
“There has been lots going on today. I’ve tried some fruits, vegetables and some garnishes. I’ve not heard of any other college doing anything like this. I’ve been able to speak to other students and teachers. It’s really brought everyone together.”
The Burnt Chef Project, which provides mental health support for the UK hospitality industry, also attended the event along with other support organisations including SASH London, Mind, Insight and WestKing’s own Student Services team.
Miranda Quantrill, Curriculum Manager for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, said: “We were delighted to officially welcome our new students and apprentices starting this year, as well giving our second and third years an opportunity to network and have fun, and what could be more exciting than to have Michel Roux inspire them as they start their hospitality journey!
“The day was a hive of activity and gave students the chance to settle into life at college – which can be quite daunting if you have just left school – and to find out more about the incredible industry they will be gaining the skills and knowledge to work in over the next few years.”
Figures show that one in six new jobs created in the UK over the past year was in the hospitality sector, the equivalent of 133,000 new roles.
Find out more about out Hospitality and Culinary courses here and apprenticeship here. Enrol now.
A chef lecturer and an apprentice from Westminster Kingsway College are celebrating after being named winners in the prestigious Craft Guild of Chef Awards 2022.
Jose Souto, who has taught at the college for 18 years, scooped the Chef Lecturer Award, while chef de partie apprentice Grace Hawksley was presented with the Apprentice Chef Award.
The Craft Guild of Chefs Awards recognise exceptional talent in the industry, from apprentice and young chefs starting out to established chefs in hospitality, pubs and restaurants.
Jose and Grace received their awards from Andrew Green, Chief Executive of the Craft Guild of Chefs, and Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass Group UK respectively, at a glittering ceremony at Magazine London in Greenwich on 9 June.
Before joining WestKing, Jose had worked as a Chef de Partie at the House of Commons for more than 20 years where he began as a sous chef. During this time he also worked at The Ritz, The InterContinental, Mosimann’s and the Savoy Grill.
Grace, 19, from Haywards Heath, is undertaking her Level 3 Apprenticeship at the four-star Gravetye Manor hotel in East Grinstead having completed a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship last year.
Young chef Lorcán wins Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year
WestKing commis chef apprentice Lorcán Leavy has been named Compass Group UK’s Apprentice Chef of the Year.
Lorcán, from Tower Hamlets, was among eight apprentice chefs who took part in a competition at the contract catering company’s head office in Chertsey to win the award.
Each chef was tasked with creating two courses in two hours using a mystery box of ingredients that included chicken, mackerel and seasonal produce.
Lorcán, who is training with Restaurant Associates, said: “I’m really happy to have won, it’s been a really good learning experience and has taught me to stay calm under pressure.”
All the entrants have been invited to cook at the Apprenticeship of the Year dinner at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July.
Congratulating Jose and Grace on behalf of the WestKing hospitality and culinary team, WestKing Assistant Principal Terry Tinton said: “Jose is an amazing educator that dedicates his work and personal time to training and supporting the next generation of chefs.
“As a senior lecturer he works tirelessly to ensure the college engages with the industry and that our curriculum offer exceeds the needs of our partners.
“Grace has always been an exceptional student and this accolade is a testament to her hard work and professionalism. The entire apprenticeship team has done a fantastic job, training, mentoring and support Grace through her studies.”
Steve Munkley, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: “This has been a year of exceptional challenges and I am so proud to see that we have so many worthy winners.”
Have you considered a career in the exciting hospitality industry? Chefs are in demand throughout the UK and London is a major culinary hotspot, so you too could follow Jose and Grace into the kitchen by studying at Westminster Kingsway College – one of the UK’s top culinary schools.
She said: “We have analysed our EPA data and selected a small cohort of providers that have met these criteria with evidence of volumes of Distinctions and positive learner feedback.
“As a result of the high quality and standard of your apprenticeship provision, we would like to present you with a personalised EPA plaque.”
The majority of CCCG’s apprenticeships are available through Capital City College Training (CCCT), London’s largest apprenticeship provider, training more than fifth of all apprentices in the capital.
The Group offers apprenticeship training in sectors including accounting, business administration, construction, healthcare, hospitality and culinary arts, customer service and facilities management.
Electrical Installations apprentice David Jones, 28, from Haringey, said: “I’m a bit older than most apprentices and I’ve tried a few things in the past including bricklaying, forklift driving, sales and removals. They were enjoyable, but not to the same extent as this.
“I’ve also got two uncles who are electricians and just thought that this kind of work would suit me better. It’s not just physical but involves using your mind as well. You’re also not doing the same thing every day, and that really appealed to me. If there’s a fault, you have to find it, look at the cable routes and how it fits together, and then plan how you’re going to fix it.
“I had a really good supervisor on my first apprenticeship job who helped me with the basics by breaking things down to making it easier to understand, which gave me a good head start. I’ve enjoyed learning not just about the electrical side, but how a building goes up from start to finish.
“I did look at doing a full-time course, but it didn’t fit right and then this opportunity came up and it was good money for an apprenticeship. I think most employers, if they see you’ve done an apprenticeship, it looks better because you’ve got the experience and a qualification to go with it.”
Each year CCCT works with more than 500 organisations to train 1,500 apprentices, as well as offering free short courses and employability skills training to help get people into work.
CCCG Executive Principal Kurt Hintz said: “We are absolutely thrilled that our apprenticeship provision at CCCG has been recognised by City & Guilds, which is a credit to the excellent work of our apprenticeship teams and the fantastic achievements of our apprentices.
“I am enormously proud of our success in delivering such a high standard of apprenticeships at CCCG. I have no doubt that with such incredible commitment from our colleagues, employers and apprentices we will remain London’s number one provider for apprenticeship training.”
Apprenticeships are paid jobs that are open to all ages, which usually comprise four days with an employer and one day of study towards a recognised qualification. They enable you to earn while you learn and gain real work experience in your chosen sector with no student debt.
Find out more about CCCT apprenticeships and training courses and how to apply here.
Would you like to gain new skills and new knowledge, and get paid while you’re studying for it? An apprenticeship could be the answer. This week is the 15th annual National Apprenticeships Week, a celebration of how apprenticeships help people of all ages develop the skills and knowledge that they need for a rewarding career.
To start the week, Jackie Chapman (Managing Director of Capital City College Training) shares her thoughts on why school leavers should seriously consider an apprenticeship instead of A Levels, T Levels, BTECs or even university, and why it’s a great option for people looking to change careers too.
As National Apprenticeship Week starts, I am reminded of the confusing range of choices available to those leaving school and looking to start the next stage in their lives.
Whether you are 16 or 18 years old, you’ve just had an experience unlike any other generation, making it essential that you have the right support to make the best choices now, which will have a positive impact on your future career.
For some of you, taking A Levels or going to college, and then on to university, may be the best choice, but others would do well by going into work – and in today’s economy there are plenty of options for those who want to! Faced with staff shortages in many key industries, employers are crying out for staff and there has never been a better time to look for a job.
For once, the power is in your hands.
So why should new career starters – or older people changing careers for that matter – apply for an apprenticeship, or ask a perspective employer to put them on an apprenticeship?
Apprenticeships used to only be available in ‘hands-on’ professions like plumbing and construction, but nowadays you can be an apprentice in a much wider choice of occupations. , from accountancy and professional services, to business, HR, engineering and childcare. You can even do apprenticeships with us in the hospitality sector – as a chef for example – or in visual effects in the TV of film industry.
Apprenticeships are for everyone and every age too, not just 16 or 18 year olds. We have people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who’ve changed careers and are now doing apprenticeships in HR, Procurement, Management, Adult Care and many other jobs.
In my opinion, being an apprentice is one of the best ways to ensure that you have ongoing support in a new role, because as an apprentice:
1. You have to be given guaranteed time from work to study
2. You have to have a workplace mentor who will guide you
3. You have a coach or tutor from the training provider to support you
4. You have the chance to learn and develop your skills, with managers understanding your development needs.
Great employers recognise the important of supporting staff, so if you are considering employment – check if they offer apprenticeships!
You might be asking how an apprenticeship works and who can do one. As long as you are 16 or older and have not already completed a qualification in a similar role, you can be an apprentice. Apprentices are employed and have time away from work (usually one day per week) to study for a
qualification. To be an apprentice, you can be a new or current employee and are always paid at least the minimum apprentice wage (many employers pay their apprentices more). And, as you’re studying while you’re working, you could also receive a range of travel and council tax discounts too.
An apprenticeship could be your ticket to success. Find out more about our apprenticeships here.
To mark Hospitality Apprenticeships Week (18-22 October), we spoke to Craig Parsons, Apprenticeship Manager at Fuller, Smith & Turner, about apprenticeships and careers with the company’s 400 pubs, bars and hotels.
Tell us about your career in hospitality.
I’m a chef by trade but my job is to manage the apprenticeships for the whole Fuller’s estate.
Although I studied for a Sports Biomedicine degree, I loved cooking and wanted to pursue a career in the kitchen. At the time you couldn’t do an apprenticeship if you had a degree, so I applied for various jobs instead. I was given the opportunity to trial working in a kitchen, which eventually led to working for two AA rosette pubs.
I read a lot of books and developed my own style and role in restaurants, ski chalets and hotels. I’ve also been involved in food development for big supermarkets and worked for an apprenticeship provider. Because I couldn’t get on an apprenticeship myself, I wanted to give other people the education they deserve.
Tell us more about Fuller’s relationship with WestKing.
We began running Commis Chef and Chef de Partie apprenticeships with WestKing in 2019 and currently have 30 apprentices training. The college is renowned for being one of the best educational establishments for cookery in the world and we’re delighted they’re now in our network of education providers.
Whenever we look to work with a college, we always send our staff out to experience a class for themselves. You cannot fail to be impressed by WestKing’s prestige and ethos and we know the apprentices are going to be trained to the highest standards.
What skills will apprentices gain during their apprenticeship?
Our apprenticeships are about giving people the best education, not just for now but for later in life. At Fuller’s, we don’t always need to prep food from start to finish, but we still train our chefs with those skills because we know they’re going to use them in the future. It’s not just about what Fuller’s needs but about the whole industry.
The reason we use colleges is because they give students room to fail and that is often the best way to learn. From advanced pasta making to butchering, it’s important to have a safe environment where you can get advice and have room to improve.
What do you look for in an apprentice?
Ultimately, we’re looking for people with the right attitude, who want to get out of bed in the morning and have the drive to come to an interview and apply themselves at work and college. I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t join our apprenticeship programme.
Why is hospitality such a good career?
A career in hospitality can take you anywhere. I always had in my head that I didn’t want to stay in one environment for more than two years, although I’ve been at Fuller’s for seven years now.
At Fuller’s, you can move around and gain experience in many different environments and still have the security of a large company that offers great pay and benefits. You can earn from day one, add your own twist to dishes on the menus and become a head chef in four or five years.
What advice would you give to anyone considering a hospitality career?
Don’t just look at the name of the employer you want to work for, look at the training you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s not clear exactly what training is being offered. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
How is Fuller’s responding to the impact of the COVID pandemic?
COVID has had such an impact. The Government wants to push everyone into STEM careers. I can understand the motivation behind it but we’re starting to see big gaps across the hospitality sector.We need them to react to what’s going on and recognise the industry needs help to get people trained and into work.
There is going to be a new population of people looking for hospitality careers and there’s also a lot of untapped potential out there.At Fuller’s, we’re looking to expand our apprenticeship team and ways to increase awareness of apprenticeships across the sector.
We’re also planning further school liaisons to engage with young people.We’ve previously ran school events where we would teach the students skills such as how to fillet a fish and have had candidates coming forward off the back of that, so we know it works.
What are the benefits of being an apprentice with Fuller’s?
We started with a chef apprenticeship programme in 2016 because that is where we had a skills shortage. We started with 16 apprentices and now have more than 120 across the business. As well as chef apprenticeships we also run training programmes for our front of house and general managers. One of the biggest benefits is that we offer all our apprentices a permanent role upon completion of their programme. Fuller’s is also making big changes to its current pay and benefits package. We’re already industry leading with our apprenticeship pay and about to offer the highest national pay rate.
The learning opportunities are endless. Our apprentices can compete in our annual Chef of the Year competition, where past winners have had the chance to visit Michelin star restaurants in New York and Hong Kong. We also provide visits to our supply chain to see how our meat and produce is sourced and prepared.
Fuller’s has also won awards pre-COVID including Best Apprenticeship Training Programme at the British Institute of Innkeeping National Innovation in Training Awards and a silver award for Best Apprenticeship Programme at the Training Journal Awards.
How are our current apprentices doing?
They are all loving their apprenticeships and have remained positive despite COVID. They say it’s been tough but are seeing the positive impact the training is going to have on their future careers. There will always be cases where some people are struggling but we’ve got the support mechanisms in place to help them one-to-one and through the Licensed Trade Charity.
How do you see your partnership with WestKing developing?
I’ve been to an induction day at WestKing and plan to go and see some of the cookery sessions next year. I’m keen to get our general managers and head chefs along to the college and help co-train and co-assess learners, which will not only remind them of culinary techniques but also teach them about new trends and increase their skillset.
How do you apply for an apprenticeship with Fuller’s?
All apprenticeships at Fuller’s are advertised on our website and on job sites like indeed.co.uk. Successful applicants will be assessed by a college on their suitability for an apprenticeship.
WestKing runs Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships with many companies across the sector. Click here to Apply Now.
Capital City College Group
211 Gray’s Inn Road