The lowdown on Trailblazer apprenticeships

31 March 2017 by
The lowdown on Trailblazer apprenticeships

Trailblazer apprenticeships are benefiting from government funding as well as the apprenticeship levy, but employers still need to ensure their trainees turn their apprenticeships into careers. We asked the leaders in the field to explain how they do it. Rosalind Mullen reports

The new Trailblazer apprenticeships are widely recognised as the industry's big opportunity to boost professionalism, promote career pathways and change misconceptions that parents and teachers have about the industry not offering a rewarding career.

"Apprentices are vital when it comes to creating a future pipeline of talent for the hospitality and food sector," says Melanie Hayes, resourcing and development director at Compass Group UK & Ireland. "The industry is challenged with a shortage in talent and a focus on delivering high-quality apprenticeship programmes will help to tackle this."

According to People 1st, well-run apprenticeships already help employers to retain staff. The staff retention bill is £247m, but 80% of companies who invest in apprentices report an increase in retained staff. Evidence also shows that each apprentice can improve the bottom line by £5,200.

The key, of course, is to ensure that you, as an employer, have the strategies in place to encourage your trainees to stay with the company, or at least in the industry, once they have completed their apprenticeship.

Compass, for instance, offers its apprentices a permanent role on completion, plus continual development within the business. This is either through progression to a higher level apprenticeship, learning and development interventions, or as part of its talent development programmes.

"We ensure we continuously engage with our apprentices to ascertain their future plans in terms of career and progression," says Hayes.

The company has spent 12 months developing its training and career pathways to ensure its apprentices understand that no matter what level they are at when they join the company, there is a clear progression route.

"Our apprenticeships help to support our pipeline of future talent," says Hayes, who adds that the company offers a broad choice of apprenticeships, from professional cookery to finance and human resources.

Over at Brend Hotels, group HR manager Andrew Mosedale uses induction weeks to engage apprentices by showing them how the business works. He says: "We don't guarantee a job; however, given the industry shortages, we find that most, if not all our apprentices find work within the group. I believe apprenticeships are the way forward and that employers should adopt a positive approach to apprenticeships and the levy, which will assist HR departments with the learning and development of skills for the future," he says.

College education Foodservice company CH&Co Group is aiming to inspire apprentices with its newly launched Chef Academy. Targeting those at a similar level, the college-style sessions include exercises that support workplace learning.

"Support at unit level is fundamental. Without encouragement and help from their line manager, this style of training will not be as successful," explains Steve Oram, culinary learning and development manager. "Our aim is to build a sense of belonging and teamwork and demonstrate how valued they are to our chef community and company."

All academy chefs are given membership of the Craft Guild of Chefs and encouraged to take part in competitions. They also get the chance to achieve Apprentice of the Month and job-swap opportunities to broaden their knowledge. At the end of Level Two, the apprentice brigade cooks lunch for the board.

"The reason for starting the Academy is not only to empower people, it's a proactive step to grow our pool of chef talent," says Oram. "We want to train and nurture these chefs and provide them with a supportive environment to grow and learn. That way they will see the benefit of staying with the group and play a part in developing others, too. It's all about creating a continuous learning environment, empowering people to drive it and helping them to grow in our business." After the programme, they can choose to go on to achieve a Level Three apprenticeship, or to continue working through career progression opportunities.

"I'm excited that the new standards have the ability to help us fill the skills void and give us great skills sets, much like the old City & Guilds qualifications, that are both relevant and well tested," says Oram.

Ready-made chefs Event caterer Amadeus, which launched an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Solihull College in 2013, has a track record of helping chefs over the age of 18 to acquire work-ready skills.

Apprentices learn how to deliver retail, exhibition, conference and event catering at the NEC Group's arenas in Birmingham. Students spend one day a week at college and four days a week in the kitchen, where they are assessed in a work environment.

"Our world-class chefs coach the apprentices the whole way through the process and inspire them to aim for the very highest standards," says managing director Kevin Watson.

Amadeus's recruitment process is vigorous. Rather than being interviewed, employees audition in a live environment. Once recruited, there are a number of options, including the Service that Sells training programme, which incentivises staff through a "recognise and reward" gift scheme, and the Amadeus Academy, which teaches foodservice skills.

"We hope that those who come through our apprenticeship programme will go on to build their careers with us," says Watson. "We see apprenticeships as a way of building the talent of the future, providing aspiring chefs who want a career in hospitality the opportunity to learn from the best."

What is a Trailblazer apprenticeship? The new Trailblazer apprenticeship system is made up of a group of employers who work together to design new apprenticeship standards that have been agreed with by government. The scheme has been phased in since last spring.

The apprentices under the scheme include: commis chef and hospitality team member apprenticeships (both Level 2); chef de partie (3); production chef (3); senior culinary chef (4); hospitality supervisor (3); and hospitality manager (4).

These new standards embrace all age groups and are independently assessed. Their high quality will be maintained through the Hospitality Apprenticeship Board.

The government has pledged £1.9b in 2017-18 to fund training, ahead of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy on 6 April. The levy requires all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3m each year, to invest 0.5% of it in apprenticeships. Employers will also receive a £15,000 annual allowance. And in England, the government is also applying a 10% top-up to the funds employers spend on apprenticeship training.

For more information, see

View from the apprentice

Tyrrel Richards, 35, a part-qualified chef working for Amadeus at the International Convention Centre (ICC), explains why he feels inspired to continue working in the industry.

Tyrrel Richards
Tyrrel Richards
When did you join the Amadeus apprenticeship scheme? In 2015. I was interviewed by Simon Hellier, executive chef at the ICC. We got on well - he said he liked the way I presented myself - and he inspired me to pursue my career.

What has been your experience of the apprenticeship scheme? The way the scheme works is you spend one day a week at college, where I did English and maths courses, and four days a week in the kitchen. We learn different ways of preparing food and are then assessed in a real kitchen environment to see if we are practically applying what we have learned.

Give us an example of why you can see this as an exciting career path I was part of the team to deliver catering for the Conservative Party Conference at the ICC - it was fast-paced, fun and challenging with more than 300 fringe events to cater for.

What keeps you inspired? Learning to make new dishes. I also enjoy working with a great team and I am learning so much from Simon and the other head chefs. They are all so helpful and they encourage the more junior members
of staff every step of the way.

Aspire supplement to highlight career development All of the operators featured in this article will appear in The Caterer's Aspire supplement, a version of the highly successful Check into Hospitality publication, which will be aimed at junior management-level hospitality professionals.

The new guide will feature hospitality operators who offer worthwhile opportunities to industry professionals who are looking to map out a successful career path. It will showcase the opportunities businesses offer for career development and detail tangible benefits, such as mentoring schemes, management training programmes, and ancillary benefits and packages.

For more information on appearing in the supplement, email

How to treat your apprentices

We offer full induction weeks to introduce apprentices to the world of work. We also screen-interview our candidates and offer masterclasses in specific subject areas.

Andrew Mosedale, group HR manager, Brend Hotels

Believe in them, empower them and give them every opportunity to develop their skills. They will learn that it's OK to make a mistake as long as they understand why they made it and are able to stop it happening again. Encouragement, correct training and making sure their welfare is also looked after are all important. We need to treat them with respect, but not with kid gloves - hospitality can be tough and chefs need to be strong enough to handle the pressure, but that can be learned.

Steve Oram, culinary learning and development manager, CH&Co Group

Our executive chefs work closely with apprentices and are exposed to exciting and demanding high-profile events as part of their training (see View from the apprentice, above).

Kevin Watson, managing director, Amadeus

An apprenticeship should be seen as a stepping stone with regards to career progression, and there is no better way to demonstrate this than with development pathways. This will help apprentices visualise their future prospects. Our pathways show that regardless of the entry point, there is a clear route to building a fruitful career.

Melanie Hayes, resourcing and development director, Compass Group UK & Ireland

Career paths extend into all areas, with opportunities in retail, finance, procurement and operations. A strong management development programme can grow and retain talent, while our people are given a chance to shine in bespoke senior management development courses.

Stephanie Hamilton, managing director, ISS Food and Hospitality

The Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email

Start the working day with The Caterer’s free breakfast briefing email

Sign Up and manage your preferences below

Check mark icon
Thank you

You have successfully signed up for the Caterer Breakfast Briefing Email and will hear from us soon!

Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


Ad Blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an adblocker and – although we support freedom of choice – we would like to ask you to enable ads on our site. They are an important revenue source which supports free access of our website's content, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

trade tracker pixel tracking