The first 'career college' - a new-style education centre where students aged between 14 and 19 will be able to develop vocational skills while studying for academic subjects - is set to open its doors in Oldham this September where it will specialise in digital media.
Career Colleges Trust chief executive Ruth Gilbert told BigHospitality that while the first career college to open wasn't hospitality-focused, this sector had shown the biggest support of the colleges out of all nine suggested industry areas so far.
"We've had an overwhelming level of interest from the hospitality industry," she said. "In part it's due to the fact our chairman is Luke Johnson, who has been extremely helpful in providing contacts from the industry, but it is also down to the fact that companies in hospitality and catering are keen to back an initiative which can get people read for the world of work.
"A quarter of all interest so far has come from companies in the hospitality industry and while I can't give any names at this time, they are across all areas, from hotels to contract caterers."
Gilbert said the companies and educators offering their support to the trust, which aims to open 40 career colleges by 2018, were impressed by its plans to ensure young people were 'work-ready' when they started in full-time employment.
She brushed off criticism that career colleges would force students to make important decisions about their future too early and said many welcomed the chance to gain practical experience while studying for traditional subjects such as English, maths and science.
"All students are making life decisions at 14 when they choose their options for GCSEs," she said. "They are therefore old enough to be introduced to other options regarding work.
"At 14 they won't be going into full-time employment, they may just get a taster through a collaboration with a business that could see them work there for half a day or a day a week or they could do something more permanent. Many will join when they are 16 and there's a natural break in education, so we're not pushing them into a full-time job at 14, which is what some have been worried about."
Career colleges are designed to take advantage of the Government’s decision to allow further education colleges to recruit students at the age of 14 to help give young people a head start in terms of gaining qualifications, skills and quality work experience.
Catering and hospitality is one of nine industries being considered with tourism; professional services; digital communications; construction; sport and event management; finance & insurance; health and care and cultural and creative arts the others under consideration.