Exciting start to a tasty career

Published: 24 Sep 2015

There was a time when a career in hospitality wasn’t the most attractive prospect for young people.

But if Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have taught us anything, it is that cutting vegetables in a kitchen can be the start of a very exciting and varied career.

Yes both these chefs who are never off our TVs these days started off as apprentices and have gone on to own their own restaurants as well as become much-loved personalities.

And now one lucky youngster will get the chance to learn the skills that could project them along a similar career path.

Meldrum House Hotel is the latest company to throw its weight behind the Press and Journal’s Apprentice 100 campaign, which aims to get 100 apprentices in 100 days.

The campaign is being launched at a crucial time when sectors are issuing warnings about the lack of talented youngsters ready to step into full-time employment – the hospitality industry is among them.

“The hospitality industry in general terms has experienced skill shortages locally in Aberdeen, UK-wide and internationally and particularly in the kitchen area of the business,” Andy Burgess, chief executive of Meldrum House Hotel, said.

“I think that the industry has a responsibility to try to grow our own talent. On that basis, we were very keen to support this scheme and to encourage more apprentices to join our industry.”

Andy Burgess and Peter Walker

Andy said that the industry itself was in part to blame for the decrease in skills. He explained that if you go back 15-20 years, when convenience food including frozen became fashionable, many in the industry chose to go along this line than employ or train people to make these creations.

He said: “The big hotels didn’t use them in predominance but you had sales people telling you that you could get a gateau out of the box and it is as good as what someone who you’ve paid a lot of money in your kitchen could make.

“And that point in time I think people thought ‘oh this is great, we don’t need things like pastry chefs’ so the industry stopped training or chopped back apprentice schemes and thought we didn’t need that level of skill anymore.

“And so what happened in the fullness of time was the industry realised that those products really aren’t as unique or top end as employing someone with talent who can create things that represent your business. By the time the industry went back to find people with those talents, time’s gone on without training and there’s a shortage of skills again.

Meldrum House Hotel

“So I think we have an obligation to continue to try to mature people through the apprenticeship schemes which can provide the chefs and the hospitality workers of the future.”

He explained that the industry does accept that at a time it had a reputation for long and unsociable hours but that times were changing and many of the issues were now in the past.

He said hospitality is more and more becoming established as a reputable industry.

“Of course the industry does run seven days a week and it doesn’t finish on a Friday and start again on a Monday so there is a need for people to work all those hours and that will never change, but the hours that people do work within that time frame can be managed and moderated. I think we are making every effort to do that.

“It is an adrenaline-boosting industry and it’s different every day and every minute. It doesn’t stop at 5pm, it keeps going and in that respect it is a hugely exciting career.

“I think the future of our industry is that it will always require people. It won’t become automated in the digital age. It will always require people.

“It is an industry that draws on one’s artistic talents and challenges their intellect. It is highly skilled and the industry requires every skill that you can think of; everything from finance to marketing, artistic and design skills to sales. Really any discipline you can think of is required somewhere in the hospitality industry.”

HOW IT WILL WORK

The lucky youngster who scoops this great opportunity will join a long list of apprentices who have gone through the doors of Meldrum House Hotel.

In conjunction with Hospitality Training in Westhill, the venue has helped a number of young people complete their modern apprenticeships, mainly in the front of house departments.

Peter Walker, the hotels’ general manager, said: “This new apprentice will be in the kitchen. There is a severe shortage of chefs in the UK and part of our mindset is that instead of trying to recruit, we should have an apprentice scheme that encourages youngsters into the industry.

Peter Walker

“If we can help develop these young people over two or three years, then hopefully you get better staff retention and things like staff turnover will go down. You’re hopefully building up loyalty as well.”

He explained the new recruit will be set up on a three-year structured hospitality training plan. During this time they will complete their level 2 and 3 in professional cookery and the plan could also include a year of day release to college.

“It would mean the apprentice was getting classroom learning as well as workplace learning,” Peter added.

“They would start on food preparation and they would get to build their skill set. Being in the workplace helps build their knowledge base because they are actually getting to see what is produced and how it is produced.

“They also get statutory training which includes food hygiene, health and safety. It means they get a more rounded learning experience.”

Following the plan the apprentice could also have the chance to specialise in a particular area.

Inside Meldrum House

Peter added: “I think it’d be quite exciting to start your career at Meldrum House. If I was a young lad and I was trying to kick start my career in hospitality, I think Meldrum House does have a good reputation. It is an aspirational place to be and work and if we can help these young people for a few years and set them on their way, at least we are putting something back into the industry.”

Apprentice 100’s goal is to give young people in the north and north-east of Scotland a pathway to successful careers.

We are encouraging employers in the area to commit to taking on apprentices – even just one extra apprenticeship will count.

We are aiming for a total of 100 apprenticeships in 100 days. Our campaign is open to any sector.

All employers have to do is pledge one apprenticeship or traineeship to Apprentice 100. In return, they will feature in our campaign coverage and be placed on our exclusive roll of honour. The Press and Journal aims to highlight the benefits which apprenticeships can bring to businesses.

The drive has already been supported by celebrity chef Nick Nairn, Aberdeenshire Council, BT, Aberdeen Asset Management, Score Europe, Aiken Group, Anderson Anderson & Brown, Aircon Scotland and the Press and Journal.

It has also been backed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, oil industry leader Sir Ian Wood and top hotelier Stewart Spence.

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