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National apprenticeship service head praises River Cottage

The head of the National Apprenticeship Service Karen Woodward total joined local MP Neil Parish and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the launch of the River Cottage Apprenticeship Programme.

Karen Woodward praised River Cottage for the positive impact their Apprenticeship programme is having on the South West and urged more local employers to consider how Apprenticeships could deliver for their organisations. During the visit to River Cottage headquarters, Karen Woodward, head of the National Apprenticeship Service, was able to witness firsthand the benefits that apprentices are bringing to the business by seeing the apprentices at work and at their training at River Cottage HQ, Park Farm. Speaking at the event Karen Woodward said: “I am always thrilled to attend launches of new Apprenticeship programmes and get the opportunity to meet current apprentices and hear how they are benefiting from high quality work based training. From my visit today, it is clear these apprentices are not only building a bright future for themselves, but are also making a measurable impact on River Cottage and its business partners. They are highly respected members of the team, bringing fresh ideas to the business and increasing productivity as well as boosting staff morale.

The River Cottage Apprenticeship involves each learner having over 240 hours of guided learning time by professional chef tutors at a new, state of the art training facility, just on the border of Devon and Dorset. The combination of having celebrated industry chefs delivering the training and working with entrepreneurial local businesses as employers is unique, this combination has resulted in great feedback from the apprentices and has recently received industry recognition with the Chefs’ School team winning two national awards for recruitment and the use of new media. River Cottage and its business partners are some of the 100,000 employers in England who currently offer Apprenticeships in 170 different industries and across 1500 job roles. During the 2011/2012 academic year more than half a million people started an Apprenticeship in England, representing growth of 13.9 per cent on the previous year.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, speaking at the event said: “There has been a renaissance in British restaurant cookery in recent years, not just in terms of the style of cooking and techniques now being employed, but also, more crucially in my view, in the approach of chefs to sourcing their food, embracing good provenance, and choosing their recipes. Far more of them are now celebrating local ingredients and traditional dishes and running their businesses in a more sustainable way.

“With the River Cottage Chefs’ School we aim to strike while the iron is hot, helping to bring even more change and innovation in this area. We’ll be guiding our trainees in all the issues at which River Cottage excels: seasonality, ethical and local sourcing, regional ingredients and traditional, hands-on techniques. It’s a new step for us that I’m very excited about: after all, if we can inspire and inform the up-and-coming chefs of the UK, and beyond, they in turn can delight thousands, maybe even millions, of diners, all over the world.”

Local MP Neil Parish, who is also a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: “I am delighted that River Cottage is launching its Apprenticeship programme and is investing in young people. Apprenticeships offer school leavers the practical experience and skills needed in the work place and are a vital part of the Government’s plans for economic growth and education reforms to give opportunities to more young people. Already the number of Apprenticeships has almost doubled, and over a million started since 2010. “Devon is world famous for the food it produces and is home to some of the finest restaurants, including three with Michelin Stars. These apprentices are the next generation of chefs who will stamp their mark on Devon’s culinary history and I know that with the skills they will learn here at River Cottage they will excel in their chosen career.”

River Cottage has also this week launched their Traineeship programme which will see 18 local people aged 16-18 learning valuable skills to increase their employability.

For information about Apprenticeships at River Cottage please contact