National Apprenticeship Week: what can apprentices learn from the conferencing industry?
By Phil Veal, Executive Chef at the Marriott, Leeds, and Jennifer Young, Head of ConferenceLeeds
Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly important to the world of hospitality. There is a shortage of talent being nurtured, but apprenticeships offer a way for young people to gain theoretical education yet also valuable on the job experience. Phil Veal, Executive Chef at the Marriott, Leeds, discusses the Culinary Apprenticeship Academy (MCAA) offered at the Marriott hotels and the role that conferences play in the apprentice’s development:
“It is very important that venues such as the Marriott offer apprentice schemes, as there is nothing more valuable than practical experience in the workplace. Conferences at the Marriott play a large role in the development of our apprentices as they offer them a way of progression and come with certain challenges that you may not find in the day-to-running of a kitchen. Conferences occur every week at the Marriott in Leeds on many different scales, from small regional conferences to large scale ones with hundreds of international delegates. We start our apprentices on smaller conferences; they may help with the conference lunches or tea breaks for example. This begins to develop the apprentice’s time management skills whilst getting them used to the basics of conference catering.
“As the apprentice develops, we will then bring them into the restaurant. This is when the real challenges begin in the form of banquets and large conferences. Apprentices learn how to mass-produce meals on a larger scale, sometimes for up to 300 people. It tests their patience, as extreme attention to detail is needed, however when they see the end product - and 300 happy delegates - it is extremely rewarding.
“The skills learnt by the apprentices when catering for conferences aren’t something that could be taught in a classroom. They learn the differences in prepping for different size conferences and the importance of teamwork. The whole team in the kitchen has to work together to make sure the food presented arrives on time and to a high quality, as the overall success of the conference can often depend on the food.
“We have seen some excellent success stories as a response of our apprentice scheme. One apprentice who I worked with at the York Marriott for five years is now my Junior Sous Chef, having invested a lot of my own time into his career. He is passionate, eager to learn, and is now progressing because of his hard work. Conferences definitely helped with his progression, having tested him but rewarded him.”
Jennifer Young, Head of ConferenceLeeds added: “Hosting a conference can be very challenging, there is a lot to organise and preparation is key. Every single person in the venue has an important part to play in hosting a conference and the food is a crucial element to the overall delegate experience. It is great that the apprentices at the Marriott are able to be so involved in the execution of conferences as they are a weekly occurrence here and provide great scope for learning.
“ConferenceLeeds is proud of the Marriott’s Culinary Apprenticeship Academy in Leeds and it’s great to see other venues and hotels across the city introducing similar initiatives. It’s so important to encourage new talent across the whole of the conferencing industry through apprentice schemes such as this, whether it’s in the kitchen, working in logistics or office based liaising with conference organisers to meet their specific needs. Apprenticeships are a great way of learning on the job as well as helping with career progression and are proving essential in keeping the conferencing scene in Leeds innovative and fresh. ”