From education to employment

At the ripe old age of 33 I have become an apprentice…

Sam Morgan is group executive chef for The Venues Collection. He describes what it’s like to become an apprentice in his thirties:

I was fortunate to be selected to take part in a ground-breaking culinary apprenticeship programme in collaboration with the esteemed chef Marcus Wareing. ‘Forward with Marcus Wareing’ is an enhanced programme which runs alongside a Level 4 Senior Culinary Chef Apprenticeship or Level 5 Operations Departmental Manager Apprenticeship delivered in partnership with national hospitality training provider, HIT Training.

So, I’m now studying alongside my day job of Group Executive Chef for The Venues Collection – a group of seven training and conference venues. We are part of Compass Group UK & Ireland and the programme has been developed by them in collaboration with the Michelin starred chef and Masterchef judge. The programme started last August (2021) so I’ve had a few months to ponder and consider the impact it is having on me so far:

It is quite a commitment:

The apprenticeship lasts at least 18 months and it is intensive. I’m one of 15 chefs – from across the many different businesses within Compass – undertaking this programme. We meet up with Marcus for two days, every two months for hands on training, one to one coaching and mentoring, and then in between those sessions we have weekly training meetings, projects to complete, and preparation to do for the coming onsite training too. We are each allocating 20% of our time to this which is a good amount of time to find in any role. Being able to juggle work commitments and study time has been a challenge but it is very much worth it.

It’s really not like school:

It’s been 15 years since I undertook any training, but it’s been easy to get back into formal learning because it’s a subject that I know a lot about and one that I’m passionate about too. Most of us liked some lessons and hated others, so much of school to me was enduring the subjects that I ‘had’ to do. Studying as an adult is just not like that, I think it’s much easier to study as an adult because by the time you reach my age, you know your passions and you can develop them.

Apprenticeships offer real world practical experience:

We are building skills, growing our knowledge and expanding or imagination in order to enhance and improve what we do within our jobs and how we then develop our own teams. On the job training like this has been developed to be practical and be able to be implemented within our roles. It is very empowering to know that something I learn one day, can then be incorporated into the approach The Venues Collection takes with our food, our service delivery and then impact directly to our clients. Certain processes may take more time to implement than others; for example, one of our first sessions was exploring the benefits of fermented foods, but the very nature of fermentation brings bacteria into a food, so our current health and safety policies are now being adapted to allow this.

Training with like-minded people is inspiring:

I’m really enjoying the camaraderie and opportunity for personal growth that is created when working with like-minded people; we are all at a similar level and we are all passionate about food. Chefs are competitive so it’s been really fun being challenged and pushed. We have met up three times now and each time we do, we get to know each other better, the conversations develop and we grow as a team; it just keeps getting better and better and I am thoroughly enjoying it!

Becoming an apprentice has made me look at things from different angles, to think and consider different ways of approaching things and ultimately it is developing my skills, my knowledge and my ways of working. Apprentices are for everyone, and they prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Sam Morgan is group executive chef for The Venues Collection

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