Chloe Sowden’s two favorite things in life are food and people. In her career, she has risen quickly from barista, to professional catering cook, to Business Development and Training Co-ordinator at one of New Zealand’s fastest growing food service companies.
It’s a huge achievement. Her impressive story proves that workplace training with a switched-on employer who is dedicated to excellence, can be a fast and deeply satisfying route to success.
Chloe grew up in Auckland, and on leaving school she did a stint at university followed by travel abroad.
When the young traveler returned home a couple of years later, she was thrilled to get a job with Cater Plus. It was an ambitious and innovative new company where she could kick-start a career in her favorite industry.
“Ever since my first after-school job at 14, I’ve loved working in hospitality,” says Chloe.
Cater Plus is an award-winning, privately owned catering business serving a wide range of customers from corporate cafes, aged care facilities, private hospitals and boarding schools to universities and polytechnic cafés. Based in Hamilton, with branches from Whangarei to Nelson, the company is also involved in initiatives such as The Waikato Culinary Fare, and it runs The Cater Plus Foundation dedicated to providing support for staff and community.
Cater Plus Chief Executive and founder Paul Hodge, says: “We aim to leave the food service industry better than we found it by investing in areas of youth and training, best practice, service excellence and industry innovation.”
Chloe’s first gig with the business was as a barista. But with all the right ingredients to be a chef, she was soon given the opportunity to upskill on-job with ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Apprenticeship in Catering Services (Level 4).
“I had a fantastic few years! I had always cooked at home, but with the apprenticeship I essentially learned how to cook in a professional capacity. I also discovered how to design and adapt menus, and I learned a lot about self-development and team leadership.
“It’s a wonderfully useful programme that covers so many important aspects of hospitality that I would recommend it to anyone.”
Earning as she learned, Chloe not only gained the qualification, she also managed to fit in having her first child.
“It worked out perfectly. As a mother, I could provide for my family as well as continue developing my career and all without a student loan.”
Two promotions came next. First, she was made Site Manager leading a two-person team at Cater Plus in Auckland. Then, after three years, she applied and won her current role of Business Development and Training Co-ordinator.
But that’s not all. The up-and-coming professional added yet another serious course to her training menu: this year she successfully completed the New Zealand Diploma in Hospitality (Level 5).
“It’s been another really great challenge. The Diploma reinforced the skills I’d learned on the Catering Apprenticeship, plus I gained lots of other knowledge I’d not been exposed to such as staff recruitment and selection. It has really helped me in my current role where I need to identify and fill skills gaps, and offer real opportunities for employees to develop their careers.”
Today, she relishes her role attracting new business, and arranging training. She has around 58 staff who are upskilling on-job with a healthy smorgasbord of ServiceIQ programmes including: New Zealand Certificate in Catering (Level 3) in Café or Food Service strands, New Zealand Certificate in Business (Level 4), New Zealand Catering Apprenticeship (Level 4), and New Zealand Diploma in Hospitality (Level 5).
“It’s really exciting. The business has grown so fast and it’s so satisfying to see the benefits our people are getting out of the training. They gain real skills, a great sense of satisfaction, and plenty of opportunities for advancement on the job.
“One of our talented people is a mature trainee who had limited schooling. Years later, she’s so grateful to be getting the opportunity to advance her skills and gain a qualification while she earns.”
For the business, she says on-job training helps Cater Plus increase staff retention rates, and develop a higher-skilled workforce who provide an even better service to customers.
“Training takes our offer to the next level.”
For more information, please contact ServiceIQ on 0800 863 693 or email intel@ServiceIQ.org.nz