Kate Nicholls, School Leavers Programme Manager, Pret a Manger

The Staff Canteen

Kate Nicholls discusses his role as School Leavers Programme Manager at Pret a Manager and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Kate Nicholls

Place of work: Pret a Manager

Role: School Leavers Programme Manager

What is the school leaver’s programme?

It’s an advanced level three apprenticeship.   

Why do you think programmes like this are so important?

Because instead of going into a regular job we provide a lot more support for young people. Firstly they all start on the same day but there is also a team that is dedicated to look after them throughout the programme. So we visit them regularly to make sure that everything is on track and help them deal with any work related issues that they might have. We also run eight school leaver courses, which are specifically designed for those being employed.

Are there big advantages to this programme over other career paths?

Yes, you get a qualification as well as a lot more support than a standard job.

After the year-long programme is there a job waiting for them?

Yes once they have got through their trial period then the job is theirs. The qualification takes a year but when they have passed it we hope that they will stay with us.

Do you get many new employees through this programme?

 Yes quite a few, we have grown the programme since 2012. When it started we took on nine employees and now we are taking on 35. Next year we plan to take on a total of 50.

What sectors of the business do the school leavers experience?

The year programme is all based in our shops, in one of our Pret shops either in the kitchen or part of our front of house staff, though after the year is up if they want to apply for the office space then they can, a few have done this before.

What is the application process for the programme?

On our website there is an online application, after that if they are successful there is a phone interview, following this there will be an assessment day and then a ‘Pret experience’ which is time in a real Pret environment.

Do you regularly take on a lot of young Chefs?

Because it is a school leaver programme if you’ve got an interest in food then that’s brilliant as it

s what the job is about, but, we wouldn’t specifically target Chefs, just school or college leavers.

How many years experience would they need before applying?

They simply need to have left school or college, we would like them to have Maths and English qualifications but we are able to provide these in-house so it isn’t absolutely necessary.

What are your top five tips for anyone wanting to work in hospitality?

  • They have to be interested in food
  • They must be able to demonstrate that they are driven as anyone working will need to start early, sometimes around 6am in the morning.
  • They have to be dedicated
  • Being confident communicating with other people.
  • Finally they must be able to work in a team.  

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th May 2017

Kate Nicholls, School Leavers Programme Manager, Pret a Manger