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An innovative solution to our three million apprentice gap?

The UK has a set a target of employing three million apprentices over the next five years, which means a whopping 600,000 learners need to start a programme each year. So how can we make vocational qualifications more accessible to both prospective learners and to businesses?


The government recognises the value that on-the-job training brings to both the learner and to businesses, and so actively encourage young people to consider an apprenticeship as an alternative to university.

At River Cottage, we believe that vocational qualifications are a great way to enter the hospitality industry – absorbing wisdom from experienced chefs, while acclimatising to the professional kitchen environment. So we set out to design a new approach to apprenticeships to make it accessible in even the most rural areas.

Just like our approach to cookery, we decided to start from scratch, so we wrote modules that we believe give learners the best start to their careers in hospitality. We don’t just teach cookery skills; we explain the importance of sourcing great produce, and how to respect these ingredients with considerate cookery.


We don’t expect hundreds of budding chefs to travel to Park Farm every day, so instead we work with over 70 restaurants, pubs and hotels within the South West to find the perfect work place for our learners on a full-time basis. Just like Toby and Louise at Eype's Mouth Country Hotel.

They come to Park Farm twice a month to train with our Chef Tutors. In between these visits, our team will go to their work place to assess them on the job. 

This way, we give hundreds of young people an opportunity to learn all the things that River Cottage is known for, while being able to remain at home with minimal travel.

At the same time, this scheme benefits businesses who might not consider taking on an apprentice without the support, regular contact and qualification provision from our Chefs’ School.

We believe that apprentices should be paid a fair wage as they study, as they are contributing too. All of our business partners pay at least £3.75 per hour, more than the national minimum wage.

Martin Doel, Association of College Chief Executive said, “An increase to the minimum wage for apprentices is very welcome in recognising the value that apprentices provide to employers and in recognising the costs that many apprentices have in transport and living costs.”

This remote yet supported learning model is a great alternative to university and could be rolled out in every industry.

We have just opened up our apprenticeship scheme to start in September. Register today and our team will be in touch to give you more details.