Adelaide Institute of Hospitality is taking a fresh approach to getting students involved with the industry. We catch up with the school’s business development consultant Emma McCaskill to discuss the future of hospitality and how the industry can connect with young people.
Emma McCaskill has a hospitality resume rivalled by very few chefs. She’s worked in some of the world’s best kitchens, including Tokyo’s Narisawa, Sat Bains in Nottingham and, back home, Tetsuya’s in Sydney, Melbourne institution Ezard, and Penfold Magill Estate and Sparkke at the Whitmore in Adelaide. She also opened her own restaurant, The Pot by Emma McCaskill, in 2018.
Now, McCaskill has stepped into an education-focused role where she can impart some knowledge onto aspiring hospitality professionals. She’s working as the business development consultant at Adelaide Institute of Hospitality (AIOH), where she helps passionate young people begin meaningful careers in the industry.
“We work with about 30 public and private secondary schools across South Australia. I mentor students who want to get into hospitality and help find them jobs while connecting the industry directly to schools,” she says. “Chefs and operators will go to schools and talk to kids about what they do. It’s really important for kids to be able to connect with local chefs.”
McCaskill says part of the reasoning behind her shift into education was to help address the staff shortages plaguing hospitality.
“I’ve had a real kick in the face this year taking a step back from venues and watching what’s going on in the hospitality landscape. Everybody is crying out for staff – it’s very real and it’s been an issue since before the pandemic.”
Shortages can be attributed to the pandemic, a lack of international workers, long hours and the instability of the industry. McCaskill says there isn’t a clear quick fix for hospo staff shortages, but getting young people involved will help ensure the long-term survival of the industry.
“We’re starting to get traction with school students, very slowly, who want to get into the industry, but it’s not a quick fix,” she says.“This generation of young people needs a lot of guidance. We make sure it’s not so scary for kids to enter into a new world and encourage them to take on a career in the industry, which is going to benefit everyone in the long-term.”
Venue owners and operators have had a tough time for the last two years, and training young staff can be time-consuming. McCaskill says that while it can be a lengthy process, it’s a worthwhile one – and the Adelaide Institute of Hospitality aims to make life easier for all parties throughout.
“Venue operators often don’t have much time to invest in education, but it’s worth investing what time you can find in young people because those kids are likely to stay on,” she says. “If you’re fostering young people, you need to understand their point of view as best you can and then accommodate for their social, mental and educational needs.”
AIOH offers front-of-house qualifications with Certificates I,II and III in Hospitality, as well as kitchen qualifications with a Certificate II in Kitchen Operations and a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery. Qualifications can contribute to students’ VET courses and their SACE credits.
The school also connects qualified students with employers in in order to help land them paid employment or apprenticeships, and employers experiencing staff shortages can reach out to the school to look for staff.
“In January, we were working with 11 schools, now we’re with 30. Last semester I placed 22 students, 10 of those got jobs,” McCaskill says. “We’ve already surpassed that this semester and it’s looking like we’ll double it, so it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
McCaskill says the AIOH offers school-based apprenticeships so that students don’t have to leave their campus to study – eliminating another common barrier to young people pursuing hospitality qualifications.
“What we’re offering to these school students was not offered to me when I was that age. They can actually do a school-based apprenticeship now, which means they can still finish their studies while they’re doing an apprenticeship.”
Aside from making the learning process easier and more accessible, McCaskill says the key to getting young people interested in hospitality is being truthful about the nature of the industry.
“Connecting with the next generation more often and more meaningfully will help, then using that connection to help people understand the industry without fooling them or trying to sell them something that isn’t real,” she says. “It’s a taxing industry but it’s super rewarding to be a part of. You do it because you love it. That message has to come from someone honest and authentic who actually feels that way about the industry.”
McCaskill also says it’s important to highlight the perks that come with a successful career in hospitality.
“When you enter the industry you feel like you’re a part of something. There’s a really strong community in hospitality and once you’re in it you feel pretty special,” she says. “I’ve made so many lifelong friends in this industry, it’s given me opportunities to travel the world and express myself creatively.”
You can view more information about the Adelaide Institute of Hospitality at its website.
Photography: Provided/Morgan Sette