Hospitality and catering

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The Independent Online

What is it? It's a vocational course which trains people for careers in, among others, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and events organisation. The core modules are food and drink, accommodation and front office. After that you can pick options that suit your aspirations in hospitality and catering such as customer service, events supervision and international hospitality.

Why do it? Because you want to work in an exciting, expanding industry where the aim is to help people enjoy themselves.

What skills do you need? People skills. It is preferable to have five GCSE passes, but if you are good with people and keen to get into the industry, your college may well accept you on to the course without them.

How much practical work is there? It's up to you. You could get through the course on theory, but if you want to do well, it is recommended that you do work placements in restaurants or hotels to practice what you have been taught in the classroom. Many colleges also put on events and invite the local community to them.

Ratio of coursework to exams: 70:30. You'll do investigative assignments, finding out what it's like to work in the industry. For example, you might contrast the range of products and services in a four-star town-centre hotel with those in a bed & breakfast.

Is it hard? "If you've got the right personal qualities, you'll take to it like a duck to water," says Stephen Moore, chief of examiners in hospitality and catering at Edexcel. "If you want to work in the industry, the skills fall into place."

Who takes it? An even number of boys and girls. There are a number of mature students who work within the industry but want to enhance their careers.

How cool is it? "It depends on the area you want to work in," says Moore. "A lot of students want to go into events management, nightclubs and organising business lunches at race courses. That's cool. Hospital and school catering are not so popular, but they're better paid."

Added value: The travel opportunities. With this qualification, you can get a job anywhere in the world. Many students go on to work in Australia, America and South Africa.

What subjects go with it? Business studies. But it is often taken on its own.

What degrees does it lead to? Hospitality and catering, licence trade management and gastronomy.

Will it set you up for a brilliant career? "Yes. We can guarantee jobs for all of our students," says Moore. "The industry is expanding, and is short of qualified young managers."

What do the students say? "An AVCE is easier than an ordinary A-level because it's spread over lots of modules so it's easier for us to manage our time," says Helen Worthington, 17, who is studying for an AVCE in hospitality and catering at Carshalton College. "We get hands-on experience in a training kitchen and in catering. However, I don't think the AVCE qualification is well recognised by employers, and it's not as personalised as the GNVQ where examiners focus on the student as a person rather than just ticking off achievements on a list."

Which awarding bodies offer it? Edexcel and AQA.