Crabshell buoyant thanks to its apprenticeship scheme
Britain’s hospitality sector has been dealt the blows of Covid lockdowns as well as now facing high costs and the economic uncertainty of a recession.
However, at the picturesque Kingsbridge bar-restaurant, The Crabshell Inn, head chef Gareth Head is upbeat.
“We did very well during some of the Pandemic to be honest, as people took ‘staycations’ and packed towns like Kingsbridge. Now, we are finding the goodwill we built up then is paying dividends and we get return customers who discovered us from that period,” Gareth notes.
“And having trained, skilled staff is crucial to our offer – that’s why we’ve put such store in the apprenticeship system, and it’s done us proud.”
The Crabshell currently has three apprentices, one of whom is currently undertaking his final assessments & examination. Training is organised, supervised, and assisted by the south-west’s specialist trainers Swatpro Academy.
“Swatpro Academy have been excellent. We couldn’t have done it without their help,” Gareth says.
“I’m only 27 myself and fairly new to providing training, but they’ve helped every step of the way.”
Gareth singles out Swatpro Academy’s catering trainer/assessor Del Anning as a particular star.
“Del’s been outstanding. He makes himself available at any time and I can call on his advice in delivering the training, or he pops down and can demonstrate skills himself. He really knows his stuff, but is also someone who helps the apprentices at every level,” he enthuses.
With a qualified apprentice leaving the Crabshell to work in the Midlands this year, Gareth sees the apprenticeship scheme as an ongoing process.
“It isn’t always easy in a small town to recruit trained staff, but by guiding them through an apprenticeship we have skilled and enthusiastic workers in the kitchen.
“Sometimes you get kids who come from challenging backgrounds, maybe were a bit turned-off at school, so seeing them do well in their apprenticeship and be given a career and purpose in life, is very rewarding. We’re very proud of what all our apprentices achieve.”
The apprentices learn on site, with support from Del and the Swatpro Academy team, a system Gareth says works well.
“You just can’t beat hands-on experience. My apprenticeship was done with day release, so I can compare both methods and I have to say, hands-on is better.
“We keep the kitchen open throughout winter and this gives our apprentices plenty of time to do their coursework, to practise the skills, knowledge and behaviour required to pass.
“And, of course, it means when we get the 60% upturn in trade that traditionally begins about Easter time, they are ready for the challenge and there to help us out when things get really busy.”
Would Gareth recommend Apprenticeship Standards to other employers?
“Definitely. You get skilled staff and your employees reward you with loyalty and hard-work. It’s a win-win.”