The strange case of the vanishing apprentice chefs

picture of an empty industrial kitchen

Nothing can replace the apprenticeship scheme of learning on the job and attending TAFE one day per week

Where have all the apprentice chefs gone? It appears to me that so few young school leavers these days seek employment as an apprentice in the hospitality industry. When I left school in 1980 it was very common to take up a trade course in so many areas and I’m very concerned that we’re losing (or have lost) the respect an apprenticeship used to bring.

Not everyone is ready for university immediately after leaving school. Studying with TAFE is a great way to find your true passion and to learn skills that can lead to fantastic job outcomes. But it seems that many parents of school leavers are encouraging their children to go to university. Is an apprenticeship now seen as a second class option?

Employers in restaurants and hotels are still looking for apprentices. They see this as an opportunity to share skills, mentor young people and invest in the future of the industry. We must ensure that the trade is not devalued. Both industry and TAFE must nurture and support each other together so the chefs of the future have the absolute best possible training.

For myself and my colleagues at Ryde Campus (Northern Sydney Institute) the changing face of the commercial cookery apprentice has seen the evolution of many more full-time and mature age students coming to us to learn the skills of the trade. This is an option that we must embrace as it provides students with skills that will mean workplace readiness for future employment. For me however, I know that nothing can replace the apprenticeship scheme of learning on the job and attending TAFE one day per week.

Times change and nothing stays the same forever. But I do know that my colleagues, both in TAFE and the larger community throughout the hospitality industry, have the same passion for food and the same desire to share our skills. And this is something that will never change!

About Elizabeth Kraefft

Liz is a Teacher of Commercial Cookery, Ryde Campus and after finishing her apprenticeship in 1983 she continued developing her skills working in Sydney Restaurants and Hotels. Joining TAFE in 1990 she is passionate about sharing skills, mentoring new chefs and keeping up with the changing trends in Industry. Liz is involved in traditional teaching modes but moves with the times and is a keen advocate of eLearning where appropriate and workplace delivery.

  • Beau

    Umm Liz? Even you should know that many restaurants and pubs are doing things on the cheap and hiring overseas people for $10 p/h. No super payments, cheap monkeys who have worked in a kitchen before and know what to do already.

    Not to mention no-one wants to do it these days as you lose your social life and self respect from working with crazy angry chefs out there.