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HIT Training’s Jill Whittaker shares her thoughts on sustainability

At The Restaurant Show there will be a fascinating The National Chef of the Year panel discussion on sustainability. This includes Joanna Gilroy, head of sustainability at Bunzl Lockhart, chef and NCOTY judge Josh Overington, renowned chef, Anna Hansen and Jill Whittaker, managing director of HIT Training. The group will look at how sustainability doesn’t just cover food and drink. Today it’s about looking after the people who cook it, the community they live in and the planet that produces it. Ahead of the panel we’ve been getting the thoughts of Jill Whittaker who has done a great deal of work in this area.

I have recently been involved in providing evidence to the UK Hospitality Workforce Commission 2030, an initiative established to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the sector and give employers an opportunity to communicate this to Parliamentarians. The commission identifies nine key recommendations which I am sure that they will resonate with anyone who works in hospitality and catering, but most keenly of all with those people responsible for professional kitchens. Three of the recommendations relate to skills and workplace learning:

  • Industry to attract and retain employees via lifelong learning and on-the-job training
  • Government should promote and value the benefits and transferability of ‘soft skills’
  • Conduct an urgent review of the effectiveness of the Apprenticeship Levy, increase the transfer fund cap to 50% and tackle the costs of off-the-job training

This piece focuses on on-the-job skills.

The Government funded work based learning offer available to chefs is currently limited to either apprenticeships, or those under the age of 24 without a previous qualification. Employers have a choice of sending their staff to college on day release or engaging with a work-based learning provider, but many employers do not know how to engage with learning for their staff in a way that suits them and their learner, and for many senior chefs they are not even aware that there is an alternative to college day release – an alternative that can provide a more work focused approach whilst ensuring that your junior chefs get the right level of professional training.

The HIT Chef Academy was launched in 2015 to provide a fresh approach to professional chef training. Participants have access to over 20 training venues around the country, where professional chefs who have trained to become tutors deliver practical skills to small groups of up to 12 apprentices. These workshops offer an opportunity for apprentices to not only observe but also to practice new skills and techniques in a friendly environment away from the workplace. These workshops are supplemented by monthly workplace training sessions where our staff work one to one with apprentices to ensure they are progressing with their learning and to help with any areas of concern. Workbooks and online learning further support the apprentices.

The modern apprenticeship standard includes an end point assessment. As the apprentice works through their programme they build up a recipe log that demonstrates that they have covered all of the techniques they need to complete their apprenticeship, and that they have also worked with a broad range of ingredients. At the end point assessment the apprentice undertakes a professional discussion, a multiple choice test, a workplace observation and a skills test.

Another great benefit of an apprenticeship over day release is the ability of an independent training provider such as HIT to tailor the programme of learning to suit the employer and the learner, resulting in a bespoke apprenticeship that benefits everyone. I urge you to look into this option, and I am sure that many of you will find it preferable to day release – even if that was the route you took yourself!

I urge you to support the UK Hospitality Workforce Commission 2030 in any way you can. It is an excellent piece of work, but without the support of the sector it will get no-where. We must all do to safeguard the future of our wonderful industry.

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