Changing perceptions in hospitality

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A chef from Cornwall is working on a new initiative to ensure more young people consider hospitality as an enjoyable and rewarding career.

During the last few months of 2022, Rupert Cooper, owner at head chef at Philleigh Way Cookery School, worked with students from Richard Lander School and Truro & Penwith College, to tackle the perception of working in hospitality. The initiative is hoping to ensure that more young people consider cooking as not just an essential life skill, but an enjoyable and rewarding career.

The hospitality industry in the UK is feeling the impact of a serious staffing crisis. Last summer there were a reported 176,000 job vacancies in pubs, hotels and restaurants around the UK – 13% of all job vacancies in the country at the time. At the start of this year, 94% of hospitality businesses were struggling to recruit.

Talking about the challenges facing the industry, Cooper said: “The main challenges we, as an industry, are up against are the way that that commercial kitchens are seen as shouty, stressful environments, with different working hours and split shifts which are known to be antisocial. There’s also a lack of interest in food and cooking amongst school and college leavers, which is something I’m passionate about changing.”

Towards the end of the year, Cooper welcomed eight Year 10 students from Richard Lander School in Truro to Philleigh Way for a part-day ‘Access to Hospitality’ course, aiming to offer a unique and vocationally focused opportunity to students who are interested in a career in food. Throughout the day, the students gained insights, tips and practical skills that they can take with them through further studies and vocational training, all whilst they cooked lunch for themselves and their accompanying teachers.

“Taking food lessons out of the school classroom can provide a memorable experience for these students that I hope will deepen their interest in pursuing a career in the industry,” Cooper added.

Cooper’s hoping to inspire other college and school leavers across the country, by rolling this opportunity out to other education providers, in the hope to really tackle the growing challenges facing the hospitality industry.