Coventry Caribbean Food Business boosted by Apprenticeship Training Programme

Jul 26, 2023 | Apprenticeships, Ladder News, News

Coventry Caribbean Food Business Boosted by Apprenticeship Training Programme

A Caribbean food vendor in Coventry who has struggled to retain staff during the recruitment crisis is benefitting from a training scheme to get apprentices into the hospitality industry.

Esmie Stewart, who has operated Esmie’s Kitchen in FarGo Village since 2016, has struggled to keep hold of staff thanks in part to rising prices putting a squeeze on wages. At the moment, she is running the shop with just one other part-time member of staff, meaning she is only open for four days of the week and cannot run her mobile catering van at other venues.

But Esmie is set to be supported by Coventry-based national training provider PET-Xi, which is training new apprentices to get into the hospitality industry as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) ‘Path 2 Apprenticeship’ scheme. PET-Xi will train budding chefs and front-of-house staff in the basics of food hygiene, kitchen safety, and customer services in the classroom, and Esmie will offer the trainees one day a week of work in her store.

Esmie will then finish the training with a guaranteed interview for those who take part – and is looking to take on two new apprentices in the kitchen and two at front-of-house. The support coincides with National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from the 6th to the 12th of February.

Esmie said: “The last few months have been extremely difficult for my business. “It’s been so hard to keep hold of staff recently – due to my business’s size it’s extremely difficult to cope with the rising costs of energy and food, which means I find it difficult to compete with bigger chains. “So I’m really pleased to be working with PET-Xi to help train up new apprentices and get them into the hospitality industry. “There’s nothing better than getting hands-on experience in a proper kitchen, so it will be incredibly beneficial for the trainees.

“What’s more, I’m hopeful I can keep some of them on so I can keep the kitchen open for more days in the week, and allow me to start using my mobile van again. I think it’s a great way to help businesses like mine get through the recruitment crisis.” Leia Welland, Head of Skills at PET-Xi added: “The hospitality industry has been particularly affected by the recruitment and cost of living crisis, which has seen a large number of people leave. There are currently over 2,300 vacancies within the industry, with average salary of £28,000, in the West Midlands alone.

“It’s so important that we help businesses access new talent, and apprentices are a fantastic way of doing that. We’re looking forward to not only helping people get into hospitality, but helping a great Coventry business like Esmie’s Kitchen. “We are also offering routes into a wide variety of careers in the Path 2 Apprenticeship Scheme, equipping future apprentices with skills to succeed within sustainable, well-paid roles. And we can also help small to medium, non-levy paying businesses apply for apprenticeship funding. We’d encourage anyone interested to get in touch with us.”

David Gaughan, Head of Employer Services at West Midlands Combined Authority, said: “It is vital that businesses of all sizes are able to offer apprenticeship opportunities for people to learn a valuable trade and get their first step on the career ladder. “Through Path 2 Apprenticeship, we want to support young people who need that extra little bit of help to support them into good apprenticeship jobs such as with Esmie’s Kitchen.

“Employers can also tap into our apprenticeship levy transfer service to reduce the costs of apprenticeship training to zero. “I hope Esmie’s story will give similar sized businesses the motivation to get in touch to find out how they can source their own apprentices.”

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