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I want to work in catering and hospitality?

It’s a popular career choice for many young people (more than a third of employees are under the age of 25), especially since the likes of Masterchef and Bake Off have taken over our screens. But it’s not just about soggy pastry bottoms and wobbly Panna cottas; hospitality is the fourth largest employer in the UK (British Hospitality Association), and jobs in it can range from conference centre manager to marketing executive to front of house. There are currently 4.49 million people working in the sector, and over the last five years, 331,000 new jobs have been created. However, there is a skills shortage, and the BHA says the industry requires 100,000 additional skilled workers by 2020. Managers and chefs are the most in-demand roles, and the events industry is booming. While for festival lovers the opportunity to work and be paid is increasing with the events sector (music festivals and agricultural shows to charity fundraisers and trade fairs) being worth £42.3billion to the UK economy.

hospitality catering skills


The positives: Take your skills anywhere in the world and get a job. It’s a great way to meet new people. It can be flexible.

The negatives: Unsociable and sometimes long hours. Think evenings and weekends. Some jobs are paid by the hour rather than on permanent contracts. Think gig economy.

What skills do I need?

  • Good communication
  • Teamwork
  • Flexibility
  • Commitment to continual learning and development
  • Commercial awareness
  • Enthusiasm

I can’t cook, what job could I do?  

With hospitality qualifications, you could get a job in:

  • Hotel Operations
  • Customer Services
  • Events and Exhibitions
  • Training and Development
  • Concierge
  • Marketing, sales and media
  • Food & Beverage or Catering
  • Financial or accounting roles
  • Human resources

Do I need qualifications?

There are a number of ways to get into this industry, and it’s well known that people ‘work their way up the ladder,’ gradually gaining experience and qualifications on the way. Qualifications are important to cover the basics and are strong foundations from which to build upon,  for instance, all over the world, the best way to cook a fish stock is for 20 minutes. 

NVQs and SVQs are vocational, competence-based qualifications that include work experience and assessments ‘on the job’. No age limit or minimum entry requirement. No formal written examination. Can be completed in one or two years, or as part of an apprenticeship. Levels range from 1-5. Look at City & Guilds for an extensive range of courses.

VRQs are a popular qualification. They are study-based, structured-training programs which provide practical skills and the knowledge required for a certain job. VRG qualifications include written tests plus work-based assessments. Levels range from 1-5.  Michael Caines Academy, part of Exeter College, has a fantastic course covering VRQ 1&2 professional cookery diplomas. The course includes master-classes, demos by top chefs and work placements in places like Gidleigh Park, The Ritz Hotel (London), The Goring Hotel and Le Champignon Sauvage (Cheltenham). A minimum of 4 GCSEs are required (grade C or above, including maths and English). 

BTECs and OCR Nationals are work-related qualifications and can be studied full-time at college or school or part-time at college, sometimes as part of an apprenticeship. Various levels so various entry requirements. Study includes theory, practice and usually some work experience. These are great for anyone interested in hospitality jobs rather than catering.

Apprenticeships allow you to start your career without studying fulltime; get paid while training and working towards vocational qualifications like NVQs and technical (knowledge-based) certificates like BTECs. There are 3 levels:

  • Apprenticeships - equivalent to five GCSE passes.
  • Advanced apprenticeships - equivalent to two A levels. Entry requirement 5 GCSEs or an apprenticeship.
  • Degree Apprenticeships - equivalent to a degree. Entry requirements A levels or an advanced apprenticeship. At present we are not aware of any Degree Apprenticeship courses in the hospitality or catering industry. 

For under 16’s there are Modern Apprenticeships and Young Apprenticeships. Graduate Apprenticeships are also available if you already have a diploma or degree in another subject.  A useful website for available apprenticeships in your area is Not Going to Uni

HNCs and HNDs are vocational higher education qualifications with work placements. Entry requirements GCSEs and an A Level. Can be completed in one or two years. Great for those interested in management positions.

Diplomas of higher education are similar to HNDs; they are accredited professional qualifications that are recognised by employers in the UK and overseas. Two years to complete and can normally be converted into a degree with an extra year of study. Westminster Kingsway University has a good reputation and offers a wide range of courses in its Hospitality and Culinary Arts faculty. 

For bachelor degrees, check out the BA Hotel Management course at Essex University. This degree is a two-year intensive course based at the UK’s first hotel school where students work in a real-life hospitality team. Entry requirements five GCSEs. University College Birmingham's Food College offer Foundation Degrees and Honors Degrees which are accredited by The University of Birmingham, in a number of different courses taught within their specialist food and beverage laboratories; Food Technology,  Applied Food and Nutrition. Food development and Innovation or if Bake off has unearthed your passion for pastries, cakes and chocolate Baking and Patisserie technology,  Culinary Arts management and professional cuisine.  Another course worth considering is provided at  The London Geller College of Hospitality and Tourism (part of University of West London). This award-winning school offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in everything from professional cookery to airport management. Finally, for students over 21 years,  the prestigious culinary institute Le Cordon Bleu has partnered with Birbeck University of London and are providing a three year BBA (Hons). This course incluses an internship in the summer between years 1 and 2.  Applicants are taken on merit but they would like all to have 112 UCAS points and Grade C in maths and English GCSEs. Further information can be found on both Birbeck and Le Cordon Bleu's websites.


Chef, catering, trade skills


For SEN students, take a look at Foxes Academy in Minehead for on-the-job training, or The Vault Hotel in Gateshead, which offers young people with autism and learning difficulties a traineeship in hospitality in a real setting. 

Budding bartenders who are happy to pay for their qualifications should Google Bartending courses as there are plenty available. Generally, these courses last a month and are held all over the world so could be combined with some travelling at the same time.  

For those already working in the hospitality industry, look at the Institute of Hospitality qualifications. The Institute is the professional body for managers in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries and has a range of accredited vocational qualifications specific to hospitality management. Perfect for upskilling.

Or why not apply for a scholarship? Not only are they good news from a financial perspective they look great on your CV.  For a college or university scholarship, the website Scholarship search might be helpful.  For chefs, there is the prestigious Roux Scholarship, or for managers, there is the Master Innholders’ Scholarship 

Finally, for an up-to-date industry news, jobs and announcements, we think you can't go far wrong reading the industries own magazine The Caterer.  


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