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Apprentices – How doing things differently equals 90% retention

Caterer.com People Awards 2019 Hospitality Apprenticeship (under 1500 employees) Winner - The Pig Hotels & Lime Wood Group Limited | Steve Rockey, Group People Director

Steve Rockey, Group People Director

What made this year’s Caterer.com People Awards winner of the Hospitality Apprenticeship (under 1500 employees) Award, The Pig Hotels & Lime Wood Group Limited, stand out in an industry where new apprenticeship schemes launch almost weekly, and where retaining your best talent is an on-going challenge?

It’s all about the ingredients

The Pigs Hotel Chef Academy is a little out of the norm.  For a start there’s bee-keeping, foraging, gardening, pickling and animal husbandry.

Most chefs get ingredients delivered to their door but The Pigs do things very differently and it’s paying off.  Each of their locations offers apprentices access to an array of unique learning experiences, which many chefs, in their entire career, will never have the opportunity to try.

The Challenges

Steve Rockey, Group People Director understands the challenges.  ‘Rural locations, new hotel openings, skills shortages, perception of the industry.  All pose a real threat to recruitment and retention.

With two new hotels across the south coast opening over the coming 18 months, we need to recruit 100 new chefs of various levels. However, attracting people in to hospitality remains a real challenge.

An additional challenge is that hotels are in areas where the Group has experienced a reluctance from parents to allow their children to work in hospitality, seeing it as a stop-gap rather than a long-term viable career option’.

25 Miles Menu

With a serious focus on the kitchen gardens and a 25 miles menu, chefs need to have real seasonal knowledge, working to plan and understand what produce is available, when and how much of it there is to frame the menu daily. Busy restaurants and menus changing up to twice a day result in highly skilled chefs with a real passion for what they do.

The Solution

To combat this, the group has created a talent strategy that focuses on growing awareness, promoting careers and attracting great, local people.

Launched in 2016, The Pigs Hotel Chef Academy focuses on the technical skills required to achieve industry-recognised qualification, together with certified craft training, making the programme unique in the UK by providing apprentices with well-rounded development. Each hotel has three chef apprentices.

Key elements

All apprentices receive a starting salary of £16,000 almost double standard apprenticeship wage. If they’re doing the same job as a non-apprentice then they should be paid the same.

Apprentices spend time with the kitchen gardeners to understand seasonality, fresh local produce and sustainability, helping harvest crops and are challenged to create dishes using them.

Apprentices also have regular contact with Chef Director, James Golding, and Lex Bartlett-Woodnutt who runs the Chef Academy and Beth Way for our Front of House Academy. There are bi-monthly craft master classes on various craft development such as butchery, fish, meat, and game and industry visits.

The 25 miles menu results in apprentices having meet and greets with local suppliers. This can be anything from visiting local butchers through to going out on a fishing boat and visiting the fish market at the end.

The Results

32 chef apprentices have undertaken training, achieving an above-average success rate. Recruitment spend is down and apprentice retention has increased to 90% which has led to a further one apprentice now budgeted per hotel with the savings.

The Chef Academy structure has seen pass rates increase from 76% to 84%. Given this success, The Pigs Hotels & Lime Wood Group have now invested further and launched the Front of House Academy to develop other key people within the business

Steve’s Top 3 Tips

We asked Steve what he believes makes the difference and how other hospitality businesses can develop successful apprenticeship programmes.

  1. Pay apprentices properly.  They are worth it and your business will ultimately benefit

  2. Any apprenticeship programme has to be more than a stock, off the shelf programme.  Tailor it to your own business.

  3. Keep it interesting!  Good people are desperate to learn and then more interesting you make any scheme, the more likely you are to build brand loyalty and increase retention.

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