Close to a thousand school students from across south-west Wales took part in a competition aimed at promoting careers within the food sector.
The Tasty Careers Schools Challenge is a National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) Wales initiative, organised in partnership with Careers Wales, Castell Howell Foods and hospitality group Seren, encouraging groups of year nine pupils to become entrepreneurs for the day.
Participating students from 14 schools across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea produced a starter, main or dessert using as many Welsh ingredients as possible and at a maximum cost of £7.
The winning group, from Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, blew the judges away at the grand final on 28 March at Parc Y Scarlets in Llanelli.
Their winning dish of apple and Welsh cake crumble with Bara Brith ice cream won them a meal at Michelin star restaurant, the Beach House in Oxwich.
The challenge aims to signpost individuals to careers in the food sector, help nurture valuable business skills and demonstrate the range of career opportunities that are available in an exciting, fast-paced industry.
Preliminary stages are held at schools across the area and are judged by organisations local to them.
Following a preliminary round at Maes Y Gwendraeth, the representatives from judging body, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, were so impressed that they agreed to sell each dish from the six groups for one week during the summer holidays.
Assistant Headteacher Wendy Thomas-Davies, from Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, said:
“I would wholeheartedly encourage every school to take part in this fantastic competition!
“The whole experience from start to finish was so well organised. It has led our staff and pupils to have wonderful learning and teamwork opportunities. Diolch o galon!”
Ann Jenkins, a teacher at Ysgol Bro Dinefwr added:
“The competition allowed us to provide pupils the opportunity to develop their creative cooking skills and to become entrepreneurs within a business environment.
“As a food teacher I particularly appreciated that the competition shows the pupils the breadth of opportunities available for a career within the hospitality and catering industry and how lucky we are in Wales with the opportunities available.”
Pupils from Ysgol Bro Dinefwr collectively fed back that they had enjoyed “working as a team, being creative with food, learning how to be an entrepreneur, having a new challenge” and that it was a “great learning experience which we thoroughly enjoyed” as well as expressing their appreciation for the opportunity.
CEO of the NSAFD and Tasty Careers Louise Cairns said:
“Following on from the restrictions of the past few years, the Welsh food and drink sector is going from strength to strength and it’s an exciting time for the industry.
“However, despite this growth, it is proving increasingly difficult to attract young people and those with the relevant skills to the industry.
“Through several innovative programmes run by the NSAFD and especially the Tasty Careers Schools Challenge, we are working with the support of our partners and sponsors to engage young people and educate them about the job opportunities available across the industry and steer them away from stereotypical assumptions currently hindering recruitment.
“We’re trying to highlight that the variety of employment opportunities is huge, and it’s now just about creating the appetite for these diverse roles.
“The Tasty Careers Schools Challenge focuses on the entrepreneurial side of the industry and enables participants to develop skills in creativity, innovation, personal effectiveness, and digital literacy.”
Aled Evans, a business engagement adviser at Careers Wales, said:
“It was a delight to see the level of talent and enthusiasm at the Tasty Careers Challenge this year.
“The event not only provides a chance to increase pupils’ understanding of the industry and develop related skills, but also broadens their aspirations.
“This is a fantastic example of how we can empower pupils with immersive and engaging careers learning through partnership working.”
Edward Morgan, group CSR and training manager at Castell Howell, said:
“We’re delighted to be involved in this successful challenge, helping to promote excellent career opportunities within the food sector.
“This challenge is evidence that food can be central to numerous disciplines, aligning well with the new curriculum in Wales. We look forward to its continued growth to 2024 and beyond.”
Owner and Director of Seren, Neil Kedward, said:
“It’s a real pleasure for our directors to get involved and coach some of the school teams.
“The quality of this year’s final and the great feedback from the participating schools underlines to me the importance of events like the Tasty Challenge in bringing together schools and local businesses to build high quality individual and team learning experiences.
“This business planning challenge built around the universal language of food was clearly inspiring to all!”
Visit the Tasty Careers website to find out more. For information relating to careers support and guidance, head to Careers Wales.