The idea was put forward by Blackpool schools catering services manager Derek Wright at a round-table debate on the state of the hospitality industry that was a feature of day two of the ASSIST FM annual conference in Glasgow yesterday (May 18th)
Asked how public sector catering should sell itself as career opportunity, he said: “Bring young people into the kitchen, get them making something and hands-on.”
His view was echoed by Rose King of social mobility charity Career Ready, who said: “Work with schools, get young people into the kitchen and show them what goes on. Start young, though, to try to tap into the talent pool.”
David Cochrane of the hospitality training charity HIT Scotland said this approach needed to be backed by ‘career pathways’ that offer young people an exciting prospect when they enter the industry.
“You need to be in the marketplace competing for the talent coming through, embrace technology and don’t just think about young people – look at older people too.”
Rose King urged Scottish local authorities to consider Career Ready’s mentoring programme for secondary 5th year students, which she said ‘can create a valuable pipeline of talent.”
And Derek Wright said that once you have staff then retention becomes hugely important, so employers needed to offer training opportunities and reward staff for good work to improve morale and provide motivation.
Other speakers on the second and final day of the conference included Professor John McKendrick of Glasgow Caledonian University, who summarised research he had done for ASSIST FM on the attitudes of secondary school pupils to school meals.
He said: "Among the key findings were that catering staff were universally viewed as the most positive aspect of school meals and that younger children tend to be more favourably disposed to school meals than older ones."