A shortage of skilled hospitality workers in Ballarat is driving a new school-based kitchen program at St Patrick's College.
Seven students from year 10 to 12 are undertaking a 16 week course with local hospitality consultant and trainer LeRoy Hand to gain the foundation-level skills and knowledge that will help them meet the expectations of employers in the hospitality industry.
"I'm hoping to encourage and inspire as many students as I can to look at hospitality as a career path, and by teaching the skills and knowledge required they should be able to step straight in to the industry on day one," said Mr Hand, who runs the Techospitality training business.
"This course was developed in consultation with multiple venues in Ballarat. There's not enough skilled workers and not enough workers who are interested in the industry at the moment - so we are teaching everything from the base level of good hygiene, how to keep benches, hands and work areas clean, how to keep food safe, and of course cooking."
The course has been about two years in the planning, with students electing to take part because they are interested in hospitality as a career.
"For the past 10 years we have had a big skill shortage mainly due to hours and careers advisers not selling hospitality as a genuine career path. It's a really exciting career, you can travel the world, cook exciting food, get to eat, engage with customers and be creative."
St Patrick's College food technology teacher Ainslie Silcock said the course was a completely new initiative for the school, offering another pathway to industry besides traditional VCE and VCAL studies.
"We are looking to get boys who have an interest in hospitality to be upskilled before they even start thinking about starting an apprenticeship," she said.
The involvement of Mr Hand, himself a St Pat's old-boy and renowned kitchen trainer who consults at more than 30 Ballarat eateries, meant the skills the boys gained during the course would put them a step ahead of other entrants in to the industry.
"It's not strictly hospitality service, it's more kitchen and back of house operations," Ms Silcock said.
Alongside the kitchen skills the boys will also gain cooking skills, learning how to make their own bread from scratch, bone out chicken, fish and lamb, make gnocchi, French sauces and many other recipes with their final test a Masterchef-style challenge with a box of ingredients, recipe and time limit to prepare a dish.
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