The chef shortage: A solvable crisis? Pt2

Written by Martin-Christian Kent on 21 March 2018 in Opinion
Opinion

Martin-Christian Kent concludes his piece looking at the catering industry.

A renewed emphasis on learning and development

One result of the shortage is that too many chefs are in positions where they do not possess the required level of skills. There needs to be a renewed emphasis on learning and development in order to develop the culinary skills and knowledge of existing chefs, to develop softer skills and management skills. A solid learning and development programme can also act as a strong incentive to aid retention.

There is a strong tradition of learning and development in UK kitchens and this accounts for the reputation of UK cuisine. Traditionally this has largely been informal learning under the tutelage of experienced and highly skilled chefs.

This continues for some, but the day-to-day pressures of the chef shortage and more inexperienced chefs in higher positions means that this development is being undermined.

Many businesses are looking again at how learning and development is packaged. Therefore, we are seeing more learning and development becoming more structured and linked to externally recognised programmes, such as the apprenticeship.

It is clear that training and development is a key area when it comes to addressing the chef shortage, from linking to existing apprenticeships and full-time college programmes to improving links between colleges and local employers. 

This makes the development more transparent, which helps to market it to help recruitment and retention, but it can also mean businesses can more easily link pay to the successful completion of specific learning and development.

The case against offering more structured learning and development is that staff will leave. Businesses are tying investment to external training, such as apprenticeships, to retention packages, which allows them to retain chefs for longer.

The changes to the apprenticeship system in England mean that employers have much greater flexibility in how they develop the skills and knowledge of apprenticeship chefs. For example, some are offering cohorts of chef apprenticeships periodically rather than recruiting just one or two each year.

Others have created chef academies or schools to help market apprenticeship opportunities and built structured development programmes to meets their needs.

It is clear that training and development is a key area when it comes to addressing the chef shortage, from linking to existing apprenticeships and full-time college programmes to improving links between colleges and local employers.

However, I believe that there is also a critical need to explore the introduction of a voluntary code of practice. The code would be drawn up by employers and colleges and rolled out across the college network to provide a better transition for the students into the sector.

The code would cover some essential requirements that both employer and college would commit themselves to. This could include areas such as hours and rotas, the types of development on offer and hygiene factors, such as uniform.

This will ensure that more chef students enter and remain in the sector and find employment with employers that will invest in their development.

Read part one of the piece here

 

About the author

Martin-Christian Kent is executive director of People 1st

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