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Female chef apprentices: Training provider sees 47% rise in numbers

Bianca Martens

Lifetime, the UK’s largest training provider, has seen a 47% increase in female chef apprentices from 2022- 2023. It has found that 373 of its 1241 new chef apprentice starters in 2023 were female, the highest number since 2021.  The news comes as the hospitality sector is facing chef shortages, with the vacancy rate in the sector sitting at up to 21%, leading many businesses to diversify their recruitment strategies.  The news also comes as the ONS has found that the number of female chefs has increased by 46% since 2018, with the total percentage sitting at 24% in 2023, compared with just 14% in 2018.

18-year-old Stella Carter, began her Level 2 Production Chef apprenticeship at one of Greene King’s Chef & Brewer pubs, The Boot & Slipper, based in Amersham in 2022, she said: 

“I have a passion for cooking and enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with food during lockdown and wanted to find a career where I could continue this.

“I decided to start an apprenticeship in the industry as I loved the idea of earning money while progressing towards my career goals.

“I originally thought I wouldn’t be able to follow my dream as I have a hidden disability – Crohn’s disease –  and thought this would stop me doing what I love.

“This couldn’t have been further from the truth as my general manager, Ben, learning coach, Raheem, and work colleagues have all supported and reassured me that I am capable. This has led to me progressing to the Level 3 apprenticeship. I’d love to own my own restaurant one day.”

Nyla 20-year-old Production Chef Level 2 at Marston’s pub, Gamston Lock, based in Nottingham, said:

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved cooking, and watched both my parents in the kitchen growing up.

“I love cooking Asian food and am planning to go to university soon to study Korean and Japanese so I can potentially move there one day and open my own restaurant. The apprenticeship has given me a really strong foundation and has been so beneficial in boosting my confidence.

“When I first started looking for jobs, I had a stereotype in my head that it was going to be very male dominated, but there’s so much diversity in terms of both gender and gender identity.”

Bianca Martens, 36-year-old Level 4 Production Chef at Flanagan’s Apple in Liverpool, said:

“I’ve worked in the industry for the past eight years and have completed both the Commis chef apprenticeship and also the Level 3 AMP. It’s been so fantastic to get experience whilst learning.

“Diversity and equality in the industry has changed a lot and I think that’s opened upmore doors for women.

“Going from having no experience in the industry, I am now leading a fantastic team of five thanks to the skills and knowledge I have learned.”

Matthew Summerbell, Operations Director at Lifetime Training, said:

“Post-pandemic labour shortages have renewed business’ focus on workplace culture and work-life balance – meaning the career is appealing to a more diverse range of people.

“More businesses are now focusing on bringing in measures including condensed working hours such as four-day weeks, access to private healthcare or dedicated upskilling programmes.

“Apprenticeships are key in helping young people to realise the opportunities within the sector, and that hospitality is not like it used to be.

“We have numerous apprentices who joined the industry with no experience and are now running their own hotels and restaurants.”

Nikita Sheldon, Senior Learning & Development Partner at Marston’s, said:

“Now more than ever, businesses are actively promoting an inclusive culture for all women, making spaces safe and comfortable, taking away stigmas and creating an open culture of conversation, allowing women to come to work as their authentic self.

“We have recently launched a new Women in Leadership programme which focuses on the barriers women face including imposture syndrome. This is helping us to support apprentices coming into the industry to thrive in their roles.”

Paul Capper, Head of Vocational Learning and Youth Programmes at Mitchells & Butlers said: 

 “We believe that increasing female chef representation is important and know that diversity enhances workforce performance and supports a more inclusive hospitality industry for all.

“At M&B, we champion diversity through initiatives such as flexible working, showcasing authentic people stories, and our Commis Chef Academy and Production Chef Apprenticeship programmes, which encourage individuals with no experience to pursue a culinary career in the confidence they’ll receive excellent training. Our internal MABsterchef awards further highlight our commitment to equity and are designed to be inclusive and merit based.”