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Shortage of young Welsh chefs

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Arwyn Watkins

THE PRESIDENT of the Culinary Association of Wales has warned that the hospitality industry is in crisis because not enough young people are choosing to follow a career as a chef.

Arwyn Watkins is raising concern as not only are there a lack of people currently entering the industry, but also there is a high drop-out rate after learners are done with their further education courses.

Watkins is managing director of award winning training provider based in Welshpool, Cambrian Training Company, and is aware of issues facing the hospitality industry. He says the cris is not only gathering attention in Wales and the UK, but internationally across North Europe and North America.

“I believe that this is no longer a skills shortage but a people shortage,” he told the Welsh International Culinary Championships (WICC) awards dinner. “Not enough individuals are taking this industry as a serious career choice. Even when they have made that career choice, not enough are progressing on to the industry on completion of further education.”

Watkins congratulated those involved in the WICC for highlighting how exciting the catering industry is, and revealed that a member of the Culinary Association of Wales will be working more closely and effectively with learning providers for ages 16 and over in Wales in the future.

Watkins continued: “This is an industry that is very important to the future of the Welsh economy and we need to work with partners in Wales to ensure that we can increase the uptake of our industry as a career choice.

“We have to work with employers to share best practice on work life balances and the changing dynamics and expectations of the workforce. No longer can our industry survive on goodwill. We all have to think differently if we are to secure a sustainable workforce. Not an easy ask but necessary.”

One of the guests at the awards dinner was the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans. At the dinner she expressed how passionate she was about raising the profile of rewarding and exciting careers in the food and tourism industries in Wales.

She believes the country has world class producers of food and drink, and chefs and hospitality businesses were developing a reputation for excellence, but believes more needs to be done.

Evans also highlighted the valuable contribution that chefs and the hospitality industry can make to achieving goals set out in the Food Tourism Action Plan for Wales by establishing Wales as a food tourism destination.

One of the members of the judging panel for the four days of the WICC was Will Holland, the Michelin starred chef from Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot. Holland recognised that current state of the industry’s recruitment process, but remained upbeat about the enthusiasm, energy and standards achieved in the competitions, which attracted 300 chefs from across the UK to Coleg Llandrillo, Rhos-on-Sea.

Holland explained: “It was great to see the range of chefs, from students through to seniors. The main things I noticed were the brilliant standard of competitions and the energy and enthusiasm within the industry. It fills me with confidence that there are chefs that will be filling our boots in the future.

“The calibre of chefs in the Junior and National Chef of Wales finals was fantastic and I think that says a lot about where cooking currently is in Wales. Events like the Welsh International Culinary Championships are important to turn the spotlight on what is going on in Wales and it’s like a springboard to launch chefs into the wider world.

“The attitude and enthusiasm of the young chefs was fantastic. You can teach them how to cook but you can’t teach them attitude. Some of the college students were competing for three days in a row and they were here until the last competition every day because they wanted to watch and learn as much as they could.”

“They chose to be here cooking rather than on holiday, which says a lot about their attitude.”

The main awards on the day included:

Junior Chef of Wales winner, Ben Mitchell, The Grove Hotel, Narberth.

National Chef of Wales winner, Ben Mitchell, Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, near Bath.

Battle for the Dragon winners, England. Open live class winner, Elise Evans, Coleg Cymoedd.

Best team live, Loughborough College.

Overall Cake Cymru winner, Dianne Swan, former Coleg Llandrillo learner.

Best hygiene award sponsored by Eco Lab, Shannon Lee, City of Liverpool College.

Best college, North Warwick and Hinckley College.

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Environment hero helps to keep Carmarthenshire clean

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A young volunteer has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council for his environmental work in the Whitland area. 

10-year-old Leon litter picks his local area every day, helping to keep the area clean and tidy. As a reward for his fantastic work Leon was invited on a behind the scenes tour of Nantycaws recycling centre and Canolfan Eto.

During the visit, Leon saw the different processes that Carmarthenshire’s household recycling goes through as well as seeing the transformation of items at Canolfan Eto re-use project.

Cllr Edward Thomas, Cabinet Member for Transport, Waste and Infrastructure Services said: “Leon has done a wonderful job in helping to keep Whitland clean and tidy and I’m delighted that we were able to recognise his efforts with a visit to Nantycaws.

“Carmarthenshire is very lucky to have an excellent group of volunteers who are a real asset to the community, giving up their precious time to help keep Carmarthenshire clean. Thank you to everyone who dedicates their time to helping us.” 

Businesses can also support their local environment by becoming a custodian of a ‘2 minute clean’ board. These A-frame boards are equipped with everything needed to clean the area including litter pickers and bags.

For information on becoming a 2 minute clean board custodian or to organise a litter pick please e-mail prideinyourpatch@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

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‘People are booking the test when they’re not ready, and the pass rate is actually declining’

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THE CEO of one of the UK’s biggest driving schools has revealed that learner drivers are still facing massive driving test delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to GB News presenters Esther Vey and Philip Davies, Seb Goldin said: “It depends where you are in the country, but the backlog is really not being got through at any rate from Covid. We’re hearing six, seven, eight and nine months now.

“It’s made worse because people are just trying to book a test when they’re perhaps not even test ready. And then the pass rate is actually declining at the moment, so then tests are just not available for those who would be ready, which is exacerbating the problem.

“We’d say take your lessons, book the test but only when your instructor tells you that you’re test ready.”

Discussing the possible introduction of self driving cars on UK roads and into driving lessons, Goldin explained: “I think with all technology, where there’s such a step-change from human behaviour to machine behaviour, if we could flick a switch overnight and say everyone’s driving autonomous cars then it would be a very easy segway and move on through. But when you’re gonna have human behaviour on the road with semi or fully autonomous cars, that’s where the challenge is gonna be. We expect to be very busy for the next few years at least.”

He added: “Your car even now compared to what you had ten years ago has so much more technology. One of the challenges that we think is that people are not given instruction or coaching in what a car can do and what it can’t do.

“So for example, if you got a new car with cruise control with a radar at the front which manages the distance which is fine if you get used to it. But if you get a bit of road grime on the front of the car it packs up and then suddenly you have to drive normally again, and if you’re not ready for it or not used to it it can be a challenge. So we’re really excited about integrating technology into driving lessons and we’re working with the government and DVSA to help improve and change the curriculum as technology comes through.”

Whilst self driving cars are not fully on the roads, Goldin explained a driver would still be needed behind the wheel: “There are various steps of autonomy. So at the moment, we have cars on what we call Level 1 and Level 2. What the government is taking about is Level 3, where the car can actually be fully in control of the vehicle without the driver needing to have hands on the wheel or control.

“An analogy is if you think of pilots in big ships or aeroplanes, they still have to be trained in how to manually control them if the technology fails. It’s exactly the same with driving.

“All technology that we work with, trust has to grow and we need to understand what it does, and there’s very much back to the point of teaching people and coaching people to drive. Even when people have passed the driving test, you’re not necessarily a ‘safe driver’ you’ve just passed the driving test. So there’s very much a coaching and a learning role as technology comes on.

“When you get a new car from a car dealer, a lot of them are very good at selling you on the finance but perhaps not so much on what the car can do and more importantly, what it can’t do.”

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Communities for Work Plus is on hand to assist with disability support

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CONGRATULATIONS to Tina Evans who has recently joined the BBC Wales presenting team and is currently covering the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

In preparation for starting her new job, Tina sought the services of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Communities for Work Plus programme to help overcome multiple barriers such as access to work and communicating with social services.

Tina, who is from Pontyberem originally, faces numerous challenges, due to long-term health conditions and disabilities, and requires a lot of support in relation to mobility and everyday care, as she is a wheelchair user.

Writing ahead of starting her new role with the BBC, Tina said “I had been offered work with BBC Wales, as part of the presenting team, and needed to sort out support during my role. As I was tight against time, I accessed the Communities for Work Plus hub in Carmarthen with the hope to speed things up. This was the best decision I made. After speaking with their team, I felt a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I, now, wasn’t sorting things alone.

“I would especially like to thank Desiree from the Communities for Work Plus team. She supported me through telephone calls with access to work and social services and liaised with them to make sure we met the deadlines required. There were a few barriers to overcome along the way, but with Desiree’s support and determination, we hurdled over them. I must admit, her support was invaluable in gaining access to work and without it, I would have given up.

“I can now look forward with excitement for this opportunity, knowing that I have the support I need.”

Desiree De Mouilpied, Community Employment Officer/Disability Specialist said “It’s been a privilege to assist Tina with her journey to accessing work. Her character and determination, to pursue her dreams and overcome complex barriers into employment, have been inspiring. We all wish her the best of luck in her new job.”

Communities for Work Plus provides the infrastructure to support the ongoing delivery of Communities for Work. The programme enhances the employment-focused support for those, often with complex barriers, who are furthest from the labour market into training and future employment with a holistic and person-centred approach.

Carmarthenshire County Council coordinate employment support from its Llanelli Hwb and office, which are based in the middle of Llanelli Town Centre.

For further information about the Communities For Work Plus programme, please visit https://www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/home/council-services/jobs-careers/help-to-find-a-job/ or email c4wplus@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or phone 01554 784847.

Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism said “We’re delighted for Tina and proud of her success in gaining employment with BBC Wales.

“I would urge people in our county, who are looking to get into work, to take advantage of the support that Carmarthenshire County Council can give to you. Our employment support teams can help you identify training opportunities, provide you with a personal mentor, work with you to develop a job action plan, help you to build your confidence and help with writing a CV and completing job applications.

We want to support more people, like Tina, to overcome barriers to get into work.”

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