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Apprenticeships on menu to meet skills challenge


IN DEMAND: Rigoni’s apprentice chefs Dean Bardsley, Janelle Freer and Joel Staker. Picture: Mike Burton/The Advertiser.

Courtesy of The Advertiser.


In a multimillion-dollar sector that relies on high-quality food and wine arriving on time at the table, the struggle to find enough skilled people to meet demand in this state is a daily challenge, according to Restaurant and Catering Australia.


Deputy chief executive officer Sally Neville said the industry was growing faster than any other in Australia – by 7 per cent year on year for the past four years.


“Unfortunately, the huge growth means the supply of labour is nowhere near adequate,” she said. “There has been a dire skills shortage, especially for chefs, where there have been shortages every year since 1963.”


In a bid to address the shortage, Ms Neville is advocating for the widespread recognition and adoption of apprenticeships, both to supply the diverse needs of the industry and to give workers secure future employment.


She said the diversity in the industry meant many careers were on offer, from fine dining to sandwich artists and baristas. Pathways also existed within aged care, industrial and institutional caterers, mining sites, supermarkets and caterers doing home delivery.


“There’s something for everyone ... there is a job in our sector,” she said. “There are some career paths where the educational industry is churning out graduates where there are no jobs, and hospitality and tourism stand apart in the fact that there are many jobs.”


But to get enough people involved, Ms Neville said community attitudes to trades and apprenticeships must change.


“If we as a community want our children to have secure jobs in their futures, the importance of the vocational education pathway shouldn’t be understated. The critical piece of the pie is to have families encourage their children to take up apprenticeships,’’ she said.


“As a society, we’ve continued to send our children to university ... but it may not be the best outcome for them in a vocational sense.


“We need to change the conversation so families know the trades do create a good life .... We need to broaden the options and … change the thinking.”


In consultation with industry and the education sector, Restaurant and Catering Australia is also looking for ways to keep abreast of emerging trends, trialling new apprenticeships and new twists on traditional approaches.


A front-of-house apprenticeship, which trains waiters and restaurant managers, is in start-up mode, working to make this a path to professional employment.


New ways of gaining cookery qualifications are also being tried.


“We are trialling a menu-based delivery,” Ms Neville said.


“The classic way of cookery is to do one segment on soups and sauces then on meat and so forth. The menu-based delivery offers a basic level of skill across a full menu (for one cuisine)... adding interest for the student and value for the employer.”


At iconic fine-diner Rigoni’s in Leigh St, Adelaide, four apprentices labour to learn the skills necessary to reach the top of their profession.


Restaurant director Tony Bailey said they recruited firstyear apprentices each year in consultation with Regency TAFE.


“In total, across the years we’ve employed one a year from apprenticeship to full employment – many are now working at some of the best venues in town,” he said.


“It’s more about passing on the skills and making sure there’s people out there in the industry who know what’s going on, to pass it on. We are qualifying people for the industry not just our restaurant.”


Ms Neville said the process took time but until the skill shortages could be addressed, the industry was hamstrung.


“All those opportunities are lost if we don’t have supply,” she said. “When we’ve got a huge influx of tourism into the state for Fringe and the Adelaide 500, we’ve got people here we want to impress and have them come back again.


“If we don’t have the skills and knowledge to satisfy them and keep them, that’s a real challenge for South Australia’s reputation.”


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