Not enough chefs in the kitchen: MIT announces drive to train local chefs

As Immigration New Zealand reviews whether to keep chef visas on its skills shortage list, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) is calling for more South Auckland people to train as chefs, in preparation for an explosion in demand.

The result of the Immigration New Zealand review is expected by the end of 2016. Last year more than 4,000 people were granted visas to work as chefs; if chefs are struck off the Long Term Skills Shortage list, local chefs will be in greater demand than ever before.

Industry demand for local graduates is already high, with 95% of MIT’s most recent graduating class already in work or further study.

Cherie Freeman, Dean of MIT’s Faculty of Consumer Services, says “we have more jobs than we have graduates.”

To answer intense industry demand, MIT’s culinary programme now operates 51 weeks per year, from 7am to 10pm daily, to fast-track study time from 2 years to just 16 months. The Institute is also building another kitchen to accommodate extra growth.

Cherie says working directly with schools is another way MIT is growing the pipeline of chefs to industry: “We’re teaching culinary skills in 25 secondary schools in South Auckland, and through our Trades Academy. It means students get a head-start on learning, and earn credits while they’re still in school.”

“We offer Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Scholarships, and of course the Youth Guarantees fees free programme, which means we can get as many people training up as possible.”

A further 250 culinary students are graduating this Thursday (22 Sept), many of whom have already secured work through industry placements.

“We’re dedicated to ensuring our graduates all get great jobs; we offer career support and industry connections to all graduates for 18 months after they graduate. We want to ensure they have the support and encouragement to stay in the industry.”

“Over the next year, we’re looking to start a new pilot model of integrating with industry; students will spend two days at MIT and the third day learning in industry. It gives them valuable experience, and a taste for what life in industry is really like.”

From stay-at-home dad to chef in 16 months

Less than two years ago, Clifford Morunga was a stay-at-home dad. Now, after graduating top of the class at MIT, he’s a Commis Chef at Garrison Public House in Mount Wellington.

He signed the contract immediately after he graduated last December, having impressed Garrison’s head chef during his MIT industry placement in their kitchen.

Clifford says he never thought he’d make it into a job so quickly: “It was a bit of a surprise. I enjoyed cooking at home, so I thought I’d give the course a go and see if I liked it. It turned out I did, and it turned out that I could also cook alright.”

“I’m set on staying in the industry, I have no plans of moving. It’s long hours, but I’m enjoying it,” he says.

It took Clifford just 16 months to work his way from Level 3 to Level 5 culinary programme, learning over summer to speed up the process.

“It was the tutors who gave me the encouragement, and kept me going. The work experience was also an eye-opener. It got me the job too,” says Clifford.

For more information about MIT's culinary programme or for advice on a career as a chef, click here, call us on 0800 62 62 52 or email enquiries@manukau.ac.nz.

Clifford