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South African Chefs Academy

The Compass Group Chef Academy has guaranteed top achieving learners an opportunity to work abroad, for the Compass group, which operates in 64 countries around the world.

Launched by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on Monday, the academy which has an intake of 36 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, aims to have at least 500 chefs trained within five years.

The group's Transformation Director, Peggy Pillay, said the course is structured on a modular programme providing the learner with a base qualification at any exit point.

"If for any reason a learner is unable to complete the course, the advantage is learners still have the opportunity of gaining the qualifications and experience necessary to take up employment as food preparation workers, cooks, fast food cooks, institution and cafeteria cooks, short order cooks and chefs," said Ms Pillay.

The training methodology, she said, focuses specifically on the needs of the sector skills priority areas. The hospitality industry has also been identified as one of the scarce skills in the country.

Opening the new academy, Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka urged the 36 aspirant chefs to return to their communities and share the skills they will learn there.

"We want you to succeed. You must go back to your communities and give back the skills you have learnt...and the knowledge that we are a country with many challenges but also opportunities to develop youth," Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka said, quoting in part from President Thabo Mbeki's State of the National Address on Friday.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy President emphasised the importance of chefs to the country's economy, as they play a key role in the hospitality sector.

The tourism industry, said Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, contributed 8 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

With this in mind, she prioritised professional culinary skills as among the nation's scarce skill categories.

The group's Managing Director, Andy Furlong echoed this adding the organisation encouraged its country teams to be involved with their local communities using, whenever possible, their skills and knowledge to provide support to the community.

"We are confident that this programme will grow from strength and will be relevant today and into the future," he said.

The initiative is a partnership with the Swiss Hotel School and Umsobomvu Youth Fund, supported by The Presidency under the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).

JIPSA was launched in March 2006 to deliver on the skills requirements of government's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA).

Chef training has been identified as one of the scarce skills and a skill priority area within the tourism and hospitality sector.

In this regard, Ms Pillay explained that the academy plays a vital role in encouraging young people to begin a career in the hospitality sector and then help them progress through cohesive , relevant , on-the-job training, gaining an internationally recognised qualification in the process.

Adding, she said the programme gives students the direction and skills needed to jump-start a career in hospitality, if not find a way out of poverty.

Academy students were selected from the Department of labour database, the National Institute for the Deaf, the National Council for people with Disabilities and the Umsobomvu Yuth Fund.

The 36 students comprise 90 percent black, 54 percent female and 4 percent disabled. They will receive a stipend which includes a transport allowance from the organisation, uniforms and a tool kit.

They comprise 90 percent black, 54 percent female and 4 percent disabled.

"We believe that developing the human capital of South Africa in a fair, consistent and empowering manner that will drive hope for a better future that reduces poverty and the disparity in income and encourages sustainable democracy," added Ms Pillay


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