The former director of a restaurant chain lambasted a workplace training scheme for producing would-be chefs who have never seen a piece of uncooked fish.
Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, the employers' body for hospitality and leisure training, made the remarks as he criticised the Train to Gain programme - adding that some of its brokers are ignorant of the business world.
Train to Gain is the Government's plan for increasing the nation's skills by offering free training at level two (equivalent to five good GCSEs) through employers.
The scheme is expected to receive more than pound;1 billion of funding by 2010. It is operated through brokers who advise firms on their training requirements.
Mr Wisdom, a former director of Harvester Restaurants, also criticised NVQs, the main work-based qualifications offered under the scheme, saying that students could pass them without picking up basic industry skills.
Speaking at a conference on the future of adult provision, organised by Niace, the adult learning organisation, and supported by FE Focus, he said: "People are coming to industry with chef's qualifications, NVQs - yet they have never seen or cooked a piece of fish. That's unacceptable."
Mr Wisdom said that real training expertise was to be found at colleges such as Westminster Kingsway in London and Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies. He also claimed that the Train to Gain brokers knew very little about specific industries. "Some employers are finding brokers know less than they do," he said.
Employers tended to go back to colleges for advice instead.
The Train to Gain programme was a good idea, Mr Wisdom said, but take-up by employers had been slow, with nearly pound;100 million of training cash left unclaimed in its first year of operation.
Mr Wisdom said that the Learning and Skills Council decision to end funding of health and safety courses was also taking its toll.
While larger employers fund the provision themselves, 30 per cent of hospitality and leisure industry businesses do not offer any health and safety training, which could have a big impact on large tourism events such as the London Olympics in 2012.
"It means that 30 per cent of catering businesses in 2012 may have people who don't have the training necessary not to poison our visitors," he said.
Health and safety and food hygiene were two of the four elements essential for a job in the catering trade, Mr Wisdom said, along with customer service and dealing with hazardous substances. It was a failing that no qualification brought all four of these together as an entry certificate for the industry.
"When I ran a restaurant chain, if someone came to me from an FE college with all these things proven, I would guarantee them a job," he said.
John Gamble, director for adults and lifelong learning at the Learning and Skills Council, said that the council had not stopped paying for health and safety training, but that this needed to be part of a broader qualification.
Legislation exists stating that it is the employers' duty to ensure staff are trained to the required level in health and safety and food hygiene.