Curry colleges struggle to attract students

February 2, 2013 No Comments

Story 20A government-backed scheme to encourage more young people in the UK to become curry food chefs has managed to attract just 16 people to fill a possible 70 places, it is alleged. The so-called ‘curry colleges’ were created in May 2012 to help overcome tougher immigration rules, which mean many restaurants can no longer recruit from overseas.

The Hospitality Guild, set up by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, developed five ‘centres of excellence’ across England, offering training to young unemployed people in Asian cookery. It is reported that out of a possible 70 places, 25 people signed up but nine subsequently dropped out of the training. A curry college place gives students six weeks of training, including experience in a kitchen. They are then in line for a two-year paid apprenticeship in a restaurant.

The Hospitality Guild has commissioned a YouGov survey to try and establish the barriers preventing young people entering the industry. The results suggest there is still a problem in that some young people do not want to work in a kitchen environment.

The Hospitality Guild argues that there are some positive signs and that 200 people have registered an interest in the programme via SMS. Also some leading employers have signed-up and are ready to take on apprentices, including The Cinnamon Club, Hakkasan and Café Spice Namaste. However the Guild claims many young people who have been unemployed for a long time lack confidence and so need ‘hand-holding’ before joining the colleges. The Guild has said it will continue to work with places such as Jobcentre Plus and the industry bodies representing Asian and Oriental restaurants to recruit people to the programme.

The project was managed by People1st whose director, Sophie Nicola, says, “This project has certainly come with a range of challenges, but on the positive side we have started placing recruits that have come through this process in employment as chef apprentices. These success stories are just one of the ways we can continue to demonstrate the many job opportunities that exist in the Asian and Oriental restaurant industry.”

A report prepared by People 1st said that the pilot helped raise the profile of the Asian and Oriental restaurant industry and has promoted its job opportunities to a large audience. It claims it has succeeded in engaging employers and generated an interest in employing apprentices whereas, a year ago, the number of employers in the Asian and Oriental restaurant industry that employed apprentices, or even considered them as a recruitment solution, was negligible.

The report accepts that some employers were disappointed that skilled staff was not available at a faster rate and at higher quantities. However, People1st claims, “One of the key challenges was to ‘break the mould’ of an industry that has typically recruited from outside the EEA and therefore is a relatively unknown as a career option. By the end of the pilot recruitment had started to gain momentum and the opportunities to build on this success looked promising. In reality, within a relatively short period, the pilot partners took the unknown, shaped it into a career pathway and attracted the first stream of home grown talent into an industry they may never have thought of entering.“

All partners in the pilot scheme say they remain committed to supporting Asian and Oriental restaurants, through the Centres of Excellence, and will maintain an open dialogue to build on the work that has already been achieved to recruit and skill home grown talent for this industry.

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