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Colleges skimp on vegetarian menu;FE Focus

Vegetarian restaurants get a raw deal from college training courses, according to a national inspection report on the standards in England, writes Ngaio Crequer.

Catering is now very multicultural, but there is little training to prepare students for work in Chinese or Indian restaurants say the inspectors. And only a few colleges ran vegetarian courses.

However, colleges overall win high praise for the quality of hotel and catering training in a curriculum report by the Further Education Funding Council inspectors.

Three-quarters (73 per cent) of courses, which includes leisure, tourism and travel, achieved top grades where "strengths outweighed weaknesses". The inspectors point out that in an industry that accounts for around 4 per cent of the gross domestic product and a 30 per cent growth in jobs over the past decade, the quality of hospitality and catering courses is critically important.

Staff turnover in the industry was high - 27 per cent a year. "For the past five years, hotels and restaurants have reported the highest proportion of hard-to-fill vacancies of any businesses." There was a concern that colleges could only meet part of the increasing demand for trained workers in some parts of the industry.

Inspectors had a few quibbles. Some colleges needed to develop their curricular links with employers. Few had advisory or consultative committees, some abandoned because of poor attendance and a lack of interest from the industry.

One issue was the decrease in the number of taught hours allocated to full-time courses, and further reductions are on the way. "During the past three years there has been a shift from an average of about 24 hours a week to an average of 21 hours a week across the programme area.

"The hours allocated varied from 15 to 27.5 hours a week. Some colleges fear that a continued reduction in class contact time will adversely affect the practical elements of the course."

One final point was that work environments did not always reflect current trade practice. "For instance, menus are still written in French and many of the dishes would not feature on a menu in the kind of establishment the training restaurant is intended to mirror."

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