Keisha Swabey – Commis Chef apprentice with Compass

“The care leavers’ bursary has been a massive boost to me.”

HIT Commis Chef apprentice with Compass, Keisha Swabey, 17, tells how the care leavers’ bursary has helped her gain independence and set up her own home…

What’s an average day look like?

I’m a Commis Chef with Compass at the Royal Citadel, Plymouth, and I started my apprenticeship in November 2022. I usually start my day preparing the carbs and vegetables for the lunch service. I check the prep boards each day, look at what tasks I have to do and get started. I also assist the other Chefs and follow tasks given by the senior Chefs.

How did you come to the decision to take an apprenticeship?

I wanted to join the Navy as a Chef but didn’t feel quite ready so I thought an apprenticeship would be a good starting point to gain experience. It’s been great – the programme has allowed me to gain hands on experience, learn and get paid.

Keisha Swabey – Commis Chef apprentice with Compass

Tell us about the course and the training involved with your apprenticeship.

I only cover a certain number of dishes because of how the military site works which is why I’ve loved the HIT Chef Academy workshops and the chance to learn other dishes. I now cook the vegetable dishes from start to finish as my confidence has really grown and the team trust in my ability.

You applied for a care leavers’ bursary, right?

I currently live in supported accommodation and as I’m approaching my 18th birthday, I will need to move into my own accommodation.

My HIT Vocational Trainer Dan provided me with information, advice and guidance about incentives I could receive as part of my apprenticeship such as the care leavers’ bursary. He provided the information I needed to apply and helped me complete the documentation. I was delighted when I was accepted for the bursary.

I received a lump sum of £1000 and decided to save it. It was so nice to have money in the bank and it has now inspired me to save extra money which I’ve never been able to do before. As a result, I have now saved up 4-5 times the amount that I started with and I have savings which I could only ever have dreamed about. The bursary has been a massive boost to me because I feel more confident about moving from managed housing and it has provided a security blanket for my future. I’m now bidding on flats to move into and know I’ll be able to live comfortably and be able to buy furniture and home comforts too.

How do you see yourself progressing – where would you like to be in two years’ time?

I would like to travel the world using my Chef skills and do some volunteering around the world.

How has your employer supported you to complete this apprenticeship?

Steve, my manager, has been accommodating and has suggested ideas at other sites or venues to help with my development. He always allows me to complete meetings and attend Chef Academy days and makes sure I am paid for these. He has attended the PEP meetings to discuss progress with my house manager and Bernie, my social worker. Steve has been patient and given me the time I need to complete any work that is set and checks up on my progress regularly.

How has HIT Training supported you during your apprenticeship training?

HIT has provided me with extra support and Dan, my Vocational Trainer, has come to my workplace and done some practical cookery with me when I told him what I was not covering in the workplace. He has booked me on to as many Chef Academy workshops as possible and has planned this with my house manager so they can help with transport each day. Dan has spent extra time with me and has supported with me building my portfolio. I message Dan dishes on WhatsApp, and he has been building my storyboards with me and showing me how to annotate. Dan helped me get a laptop through the HIT donation scheme which has really helped and allowed me to do work at home and at work.

Describe in 40 – 60 words how your apprenticeship with HIT Training has had a positive impact on your skills and/or career prospects.

HIT has helped me gain skills that I would not have covered in my workplace, especially through the practical support of the Chef Academy. I feel confident in my role and able to apply for future jobs in this industry. I want to open my own business one day – a Pasta & Pizza drive thru!  Even if I don’t continue with cheffing, I have developed skills I use all the time and am confident cooking for myself at home.

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