School wasn’t doing it for Brooklyn O’Neil. He wanted to get out into the workforce and start making a go of things. So, he went looking for work and landed a job in a restaurant, in the classic starting-out role of dishwasher.
You might think there’s nothing worse than washing other people’s dishes. But Brooklyn saw it as an opportunity and grabbed it. He put in the hours, worked hard, and offered to help with other tasks when he saw that the kitchen was busy, or something needed doing. The chef and kitchen staff respected that attitude and passion.
“Chef took me under his wing,” says the young cookery apprentice, who is just months away from becoming qualified. “I loved the vibe, creativity and passion. I put in the hours and hard work. I learned a lot and loved it. Chef could see that I was committed to the job and profession, so committed to me in turn by offering me a ServiceIQ Cookery Apprenticeship.”
Brooklyn is working as a chef in the busy kitchen of Flamingo Joe's Bar & Eatery, a popular Wellington waterfront venue. He says that the earn and learn Apprenticeship is a fantastic way to get qualified as a chef – but also admits that it’s not for the faint-hearted.
“The upsides really outweigh any negatives though. The ServiceIQ learning materials are ideal for self-learning, especially as in the workplace the focus is on hands-on, practical, commercial cookery. For me, it’s a far better way than classroom learning.
“It works because it’s real. There’s more pressure because you’re in a real kitchen, with a real menu, creating real dishes that customers expect to be high quality and worth paying for. Some people might find that hard to deal with but, for me, it means that I learn more and I learn it faster and better.
“It can be hard balancing the hours at work with the time needed to do assessments, but it’s not that big a problem if you plan. And because you’re earning at the same time as you’re learning, that gives real perspective to both the on-job and off-job aspects.”
Brooklyn has been in the kitchen long enough to see great benefits for his employer and the chefs running the kitchen and mentoring him in his learning and career.
“It’s another benefit of learning in a real workplace. I quickly got to see the business side of the operation – I understand that it’s more than cooking food and creating great meals.
“Apprentices bring value to the employer. You get passionate people and, with ServiceIQ involved, you help transfer jobs into careers for your staff. On-job training helps the business upskill staff the right way: you learn the right processes and techniques; the learning happens at the right speed; and you learn everything that you need to learn.
“You also get to understand the make-up of a team and how that works and why. Plus, you really understand that mistakes matter and that they cost money. I’ve seen people trained in a classroom who come into the kitchen and struggle a bit at first with the commercial realities.”
Go for it
For someone just into their 20s, Brooklyn has some sage advice for anyone thinking about a cookery apprenticeship.
“If it feels right, go for it and do it. If you find that you love it, you’ll have a career. And even if you decide it’s not for you, cooking is a skill for life – no matter what you do, being a good cook is very useful!
“Be prepared to start out doing whatever job is offered. Then show the chef that you have what it takes. Let the kitchen team know that you will help out, start early or work late. Jump in and lend a hand – show the passion and that you can do it, and you want to do it. I was open to the opportunity and took it when it was offered.
“Be prepared to take responsibility for your own learning. That’s a key part of the apprenticeship. You do get lots of support from your employer and ServiceIQ, but it’s really up to you how you go about getting your experience and qualifications. It is self-managed learning, but’s it’s also getting paid to study since you’re earning as you learn.
“The Cookery Apprenticeship with ServiceIQ is a fantastic way to start your kitchen career.”
There is information on ServiceIQ’s three hospitality apprenticeships (cookery, catering and food & beverage), plus a wealth of other on-job training options here.
Employers can find about the government apprenticeship support programmes here.