The ‘curry colleges’ failing to attract students


A government-backed scheme to encourage “home-grown” Asian food chefs has managed to attract just 16 people out of a possible 70 places. The so-called “curry colleges” were created in May this year to plug the gap left in the Asian catering industry by tougher immigration rules, which mean many restaurants can no longer recruit from overseas.

The Hospitality Guild, set up with £1.75m in funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, developed five “centres of excellence” across England, offering training to young unemployed people in Asian cookery. One of them was at Leeds City College, which has attracted no recruits whatsoever.

So far out of the possible 70 places, 25 people signed up but nine have dropped out of training.

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70 – apprenticeships available
50 – target for recruits
25 – actually signed up
9 – dropped out
16 – actually training
Source: The Hospitality Guild
It was not what the head of the hospitality faculty, Gordon Sibbald, was expecting.

“A big part of me is very surprised because I thought that quite a number of people, especially youngsters, would start being attracted to this sort of sector,” said Mr Sibbald.

“It’s a massive growth sector. We’ve something like 23% just in this Yorkshire region alone, per year, of growth in the Asian and oriental catering sector.”

Around a fifth of Britain’s restaurants are Asian or Oriental. And since November 2011, they have faced strict rules on employing immigrants, severely restricting their ability to recruit.
Chefs can only be recruited from abroad for posts paying over £28,000 a year, after deductions for accommodation and meals. They must also have five or more years’ experience.

It means a totally new way of finding staff for some restaurants – and Gordon Sibbald says some owners are also not on board with the new plans for British apprentices.

“We know the jobs are there. The bigger restaurant groups are definitely going to be looking for more skilled staff and we’ve got the ideal opportunity to make that difference. I think some reluctance is coming from the fact that many restaurants have never had to look at succession planning, but the immigration cap has brought that home.”

A curry college place gives students six weeks of training, including experience in a kitchen. They are then in line for a two-year paid apprenticeship in a restaurant.

One of the large companies which had said it was willing to take on apprentices was Aagrah, which has a chain of restaurants across West Yorkshire.

Director Naeem Aslam says he was always sceptical about the idea of the curry colleges and now feels the immigration rules will have to be relaxed.


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