A Government-funded scheme set up to train UK nationals to work as chefs in Asian and Oriental restaurants is struggling to find enough people to take up the apprenticeships it offers, despite the fact that almost a third of young people say they would consider working in the sector.
The Hospitality Guild, which launched the five Asian and Oriental Centres of Excellence earlier this year , told BigHospitality that despite high levels of interest initially, so far only half of the 50 places it is offering on the pre-employment training scheme have been filled by candidates.
The scheme, which has the backing of 40 Asian and Oriental restaurants, including Hakkasan Group, the Cinnamon Club and Café Spice Namaste, was set up in a bid to address the skills shortages faced by employers following the introduction of the immigration cap.
Since the introduction of the new immigration rules in April 2011, which forbid chefs earning less than 28k a year to be recruited from outside Europe and the EEA, many operators of Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese restaurants have found it difficult to find staff with the right skills.
Last week MW Eat, formerly known as Masala World, said it was scrapping expansion plans for the business in the UK because immigration rules made it impossible to find staff at the right level.
The Hospitality Guild said with the UK's current levels of high youth unemployment, it knew of no reason why candidates were not coming forward. If the results of a YouGov poll of those aged between 16 and 24 is to believed, 30 per cent of them would consider a job in an Asian or Oriental restaurant and of the 30 per cent who said that, 36 per cent said it would be 'fun to work in the industry'.
However, 25 places remain empty on the six-week training programme running at five colleges in England which, on completion, result in an apprenticeship at one of the partnership restaurants.
Suzy Jackson, executive director of the Hospitality Guild, said it was evident that more needed to be done to redress the balance and make opportunities within the industry better known.
"With high levels of youth unemployment it’s frustrating that employers are still struggling to recruit and we can’t fill our apprenticeship scheme," she said. "In a recent Omnibus survey, we found out that almost three quarters of the British population (73 per cent) didn’t know that the hospitality industry has been booming and continues to recruit, so we are looking to spread the message far and wide. This is a great industry to be in and it should be considered as the industry of choice when you leave school.
“It’s encouraging to see that a third of young people would consider a career within Asian and Oriental cuisine but we need to collectively work together to reach them and explain the fantastic opportunities available to help people find worthwhile jobs.”
Prospective apprentices do not need any previous experience of the hospitality industry to apply and no real requirements to enrol, the Hospitality Guild said.
Applicants complete a free six-week pre-employment programme, which includes training and work experience with an employer. They are given the chance to earn the Level 1 Award in Introduction to Employment in the Hospitality Industry and guaranteed an interview with a prospective employer for either a job or an apprenticeship. Taking part in the programme does not affect a person's Jobseeker's Allowance.
For more information on how to join the programme visit www.hospitalityguild.co.uk/spotlight .