21-year-old Hollie Hutton has completed a Level 3 Senior Production Chef apprenticeship thanks to her employer Towngate Fisheries in Idle, Bradford. Here Hollie talks about how this has helped her map out a future in foodservice
How long have you been at Towngate Fisheries?
Five years. I started when I was 16 on a part-time basis working on the counter. At school I was studying health and social care but I had no idea to be honest what I wanted to do when I left. I did work experience on a labour ward but decided it wasn’t for me. When I left school, Mark Drummond, the owner of Towngate, asked if I would like him to teach me to fry and suggested we look at an apprenticeship.
What did Mark see in you for him to put you forward for an apprenticeship?
I think he could see that I was reliable, I was a good worker, I was always on time, I stayed when I was needed and I was keen to learn more.
What were your thoughts about studying for an apprenticeship?
It was something I was really interested in. I’ve always enjoyed the job, especially the customer service side, but I had never really thought about a career in food until Mark suggested it. I was looking forward to learning new skills.
What did the apprenticeship involve?
It was a mix of learning on the job as well as some online sessions and practical workshops. It took me about two years to complete as I did it during Covid and had to wait to do a lot of the practical elements. It covered everything – not just frying fish – all aspects of food cooking as well as the business management side of things. Long term, I felt that was really good should I want my own business one day, which I think is where I’m going with it now. It has given me so many more skills. For example, I did a fish cutting workshop where I was filleting, gutting, skinning and boning all different types of fish. At Towngate, we only serve haddock so it was good to work with a wide variety of fish.
How has your role changed since gaining your apprenticeship?
With the new skills have come a lot more responsibilities. Now I’ll come in on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and it will be just me doing all the prep, taking orders, taking in the deliveries etc, until another staff member comes in at 11am. I’ve also become so much more confident with my social skills, talking to customers and other new staff members as we get quite a lot of new starters who I feel I can chat easily with because I can relate to their situation. I’ve also got a much better appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes, which you don’t realise when you are only on the counter.
What other benefits has the apprenticeship given you?
I’ve had two wage rises, which is obviously so good. And I feel so much more trusted and valued. I’ve also now got a qualification that I can take anywhere and which opens up so many more opportunities. I could go into hotels and restaurants, there are so many possibilities.
Tell us a little bit about the social media post announcing your apprenticeship
It was crazy! Mark posted a picture of me with a caption saying, ‘This is Hollie, our apprentice’ along with a case study that Seafish did explaining the apprenticeship, and it just went absolutely viral. Over 500,000 people saw it, thousands shared it, and we even had people in China commenting.
What were the comments?
There were so many. Some people were saying how good it was to see a young person taking the time out to do this and better themselves. I had lots of customers coming into the shop and congratulating me too. There were a few negative comments, people saying it’s a minimum wage job, but it was good to be able to put those people right and explain actually it is a really skilled profession.
Would you recommend an apprenticeship to others?
Yes definitely, it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and also to learn more about what is involved in running a business. Plus you get a qualification that you can take anywhere with you, all while working and earning money.
Would you like to see more employers in the fish and chip trade offer apprentices?
Definitely, it’s a great opportunity because it’s all about training. It’s not just me that has benefited; I am using what I’ve learned from my apprenticeship to train our new starters. Having an apprentice improves your business in so many ways, even just advertising it on your socials is a great benefit.
If you hadn’t gone down the apprenticeship route, what do you think you would have done?
I really don’t know, possibly have left because I wouldn’t have been aware of the possibilities there are to advance in the fish and chip industry. Completing an apprenticeship has given me direction and motivation and shows you can go places in a fish and chip shop.
What skills do you think you need to succeed with an apprenticeship?
You have to work hard, want to learn and be committed. The way it works it’s so easily accessible, you don’t even need a laptop, you can access the course on your mobile, and it really doesn’t involve a lot of studying – a few hours a week online and the workshops – the rest is done day-to-day while you are working.
WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT APPRENTICESHIPS?
Hollie’s apprenticeship was arranged through Seafish’s onshore training team and carried out with HIT Training. For more details, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.seafish.org/safety-and-training/onshore-training/seafood-business-apprenticeships/