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Modern Apprentice Chef Scheme “Resounding Success”

16 August 2006

Modern Apprentice Chef Scheme “Resounding Success” For Largest Food And Beverage Operator - Skycity

The Modern Apprentice Scheme is proving a resounding success in helping New Zealand’s largest food and beverage operator, SKYCITY Auckland, tackle the nationwide chef shortage.

More than 200 full-time chefs are in the kitchen at any one time across SKYCITY’s 17 bars and restaurants, two hotels, the SKYCITY Auckland Convention Centre and out-catering company, SKYCITY Catering and Events.

SKYCITY Executive Chef, Warren Bias, is responsible for overseeing the entire SKYCITY food and beverage operation as well as the Modern Apprentice in-house chef training programme.

Modern Apprenticeships were launched by the New Zealand government in July 2000 and are hailed as a vocational and educational pathway to encourage school leavers into the work force.

SKYCITY offers a full time in-house training programme, where trainee chefs are paid by SKYCITY to complete their three-year on the job culinary apprenticeship (avoiding student debt).

SKYCITY currently has trained over 10 successful chefs through the Modern Apprenticeship chef training programme and has another 19 chefs currently in their first, second and final year of their training.

Mr Bias says he’s thrilled with the success of the scheme and hopes to take on at least 10 new apprentice chefs in the next intake (January 2007). Recruitment for the next intake is in November this year.

Minister for Tertiary Education, Dr Michael Cullen, recently visited SKYCITY’s facilities and met two of SKYCITY’s Modern Apprentice chefs currently in year one and two of their training. Dr Cullen says he was impressed at the breadth of offerings available for modern apprentices at SKYCITY and wished them both well in their chosen career.

“Modern apprenticeships have been very successful in meeting a real need for workplace-based industry training and I am very pleased that SKYCITY is embracing the opportunities offered under the scheme,” says Mr Cullen.

Chris Williams, (18), of Manurewa, is currently in his second year of the training scheme and speaks positively about the programme.

“It’s great to get paid while you learn on the job. It’s challenging work but definitely worth it. I can’t think of a better place to train as SKYCITY as there is so much variety of jobs to learn from,” he says.

SKYCITY is also proud to showcase Joseph Tahaafe (from Auckland) - the very first person to complete the Modern Apprentice chef training course in New Zealand and who trained at SKYCITY. After working at a variety of food and beverage outlets throughout SKYCITY, Joseph is now employed full time as Chef de Partie at SKYCITY’s Orbit revolving restaurant.

“It is wonderful to see young people having the opportunity to obtain the best training available in their chosen career within the country’s largest single site hospitality operation here at SKYCITY,” says Mr Bias.

Mr Bias adds that while the company is obviously keen to have students remain at SKYCITY, one of the key benefits in offering apprenticeships is the provision of excellent training to cookery students for the benefit of the entire industry.

“It’s widely known that there is a nationwide chef shortage in New Zealand. Graduates of the programme are effectively lifting the bar in the market place and benefiting the hospitality industry as a whole. SKYCITY is delighted to contribute by participating in the programme,” he says.

Warren Bias has been with SKYCITY since its inception over 10 years ago. He has been instrumental in setting up and overseeing all food and beverage operations, (including the new SKYCITY Auckland Convention Centre which can host a seated banquet dinner for up to 1200 guests at a time).

His contact with the chefs starts when they apply for a job.

“I interview every one of them to determine where it is they want to be now and in the future, what they like to do and which area of our operation they want to work in.

“It’s vital to have staff with the right attitude in the hospitality industry. It’s all about enthusiasm, and team work is imperative,” he says.

Mr Bias says it definitely is a constant challenge to find the right skilled people in the hospitality industry to fill so many varied positions on offer at SKYCITY.

“There is a shallow pool to draw from with a population of 4 million people in New Zealand that we have to be innovative in how we attract and how we treat our staff.”

In addition to the Modern Apprentice scheme that encourages school leavers to become chefs, SKYCITY has launched a new website to attract chefs to positions at SKYCITY – (which targets both the local and international markets).

“Working at SKYCITY in the hospitality industry is a great job, with plenty of scope for progress and change. We have numerous outlets, styles and customer expectations and we have a great team.

“In addition, SKYCITY also owns similar gaming and entertainment companies throughout Australasia and there are opportunities to transfer to one of the sites at Hamilton, Queenstown, Adelaide and Darwin,” says Mr Bias.

“Over the coming months we will also be launching a number of international initiatives and partnering with various organisations to ensure that we maintain a top skilled work force. Our industry needs to continue to be creative so we all benefit, grow and develop our talent and enhance worldly experiences.

“Specifically we are looking at partnering with WACS (World Association of Chefs) and the NZ Chefs Association, to launch an industry first in this part of the world - to have an international exchange programme, which in turn, will benefit all within our industry.”

Mr Bias says the introduction of the Modern Apprentice scheme was ideal as SKYCITY was in the process of developing its own cookery apprenticeship programme when the Government announced its intention to launch a similar initiative on a national basis.

“SKYCITY then approached the Government to identify how they could work together and the company was selected to launch the country’s first Modern Apprentice chef programme,” says Mr Bias.


- SKYCITY was one of New Zealand’s first employers to offer in-house apprenticeships (and the very first in cookery) as part of the Modern Apprenticeships pilot scheme launched by the Government in July 2000.

- To date more than 2000 people have successfully completed a Modern Apprenticeship in New Zealand.

- SKYCITY currently has 19 students employed at the three various stages of the Modern Apprentice chef training programme.

- SKYCITY is the nation’s largest food and beverage operation with 17 bars and restaurants at SKYCITY Auckland alone. The Modern Apprentice Chef programme gives trainees experience in the kitchen environments of SKYCITY’s cafe and brasserie operations, fine dining, convention centre kitchens, ethnic cuisine restaurants and high-volume staff cafeteria.

- The three-year hospitality apprenticeships involve candidates receiving a mixture of on and off-the-job training and cookery experience across the wide range of food & beverage outlets operated by SKYCITY covering all aspects of cookery including butchery, pastry and general kitchen training.

- The programme includes on and off-the- job training using NZQA national qualifications and unit standards. All assessment is carried out under the guidance and direction of SKYCITY Executive Sous Chef Peter Ray.

- SKYCITY employs over 200 chefs in ten food and beverage outlets including the new SKYCITY Auckland Convention Centre, which has banqueting capacity for 1200 people.

- Modern Apprenticeships coordinators, such as the Hospitality Standards Institute, provides recruitment and placement services to assist employers like SKYCITY to engage suitable people as Modern Apprentices.


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