How ICCA Dubai’s Culinary Scholarship is Helping Young UAE Chefs
The Annual AED 1 Million Continuing Education Award has already trained 125 Chef Scholars since 2015
Since 2015, the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai, one of the region's pioneering culinary training institutes, has helped train and certify a total of 125 talented and deserving but financially underprivileged young chefs from the industry to achieve their dreams. This was accomplished through the CSR initiative,"ICCA Dubai Culinary Scholarship Program, the Annual One Million Dirham Continuing Education Award for UAE Young Industry Chefs". This program has been implemented in strategic partnership with the Emirates Culinary Guild, CityandGuilds, London, and Worldchefs.
On May 18th, 2021, the Class of 2021, comprising 28 Chef Scholars, graduated from the Scholarship program at a glittering graduation and awards ceremony hosted at the Conference Centre in Dubai Knowledge Park. The Certificates and Qualifications were bestowed by Mohammad Abdullah, President of Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP).
The graduating scholars of the Class of 2021 comprised professionals currently employed at and nominated by a host of the UAE's top hotels and restaurants, including Hilton, Jumeirah, Bvlgari, Sheraton, Fairmont, Shangri-la, Ritz Carlton, Rixos, J W Marriott, and Etihad.
Supporting a vibrant industry in the UAE
The UAE is home to one of the world's most vibrant hospitality, hotel and restaurant industries. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide, there is still hope that the UAE's hospitality and restaurant businesses will make a solid comeback this year. With such high expectations of robust performance, having the right talents with the right qualifications in the kitchens becomes an absolute necessity.
ICCA Dubai, as an award-winning, world-class culinary school, has already trained more than 6,000 students from 30 countries, all of whom have enjoyed near-100% placement rates. Successful graduates have gone on to find careers in over 86% of the hotels and restaurants in the UAE, according to the Institute.
"Technical Vocational EducationandTrainings (TVET) are paramount, as the industry today is increasingly focusing on the standard of knowledge and skills required for high-quality work, especially in the culinary industry and the world of hospitality. This trend can be seen all over the world, with various governments implementing serious training initiatives to develop knowledge and skills, because building a skills-based economy is considered the need of the hour,"says Sunjeh Raja, the Director and CEO of ICCA Dubai and a Member of ICCA Dubai Culinary Scholarship Committee.
Why the Scholarship was established
It was noted that many young chefs currently employed in various hotels and restaurants do not possess the necessary qualifications that would help them evolve and progress in their careers, despite having relevant work experience. Further, many of them hail from non-culinary backgrounds and entered the industry only to find employment. So, after a few years, when these industry professionals wish to become more proficient and advance to higher levels, they find themselves stopping short due to a lack of qualifications and certifications, despite their rich work experience.
It was to address this tangible skills and qualifications gap that ICCA Dubai decided to give back to the community by starting a one-of-its-kind culinary scholarship in 2014. The goal of this CSR initiative was to work with the hotels and restaurants across the UAE, who would nominate young chefs under the age of 30 whom they believed deserved formal training and an internationally recognised qualification something they were unable to obtain on their own due to financial hardships. From these, ICCA Dubai, along with its Scholarship partners, the Emirates Culinary Guild, City Guilds, London, and Worldchefs, would identify 30 deserving young candidates each year.
These 30 chefs would then undergo a complete formal education through ICCA Dubais Professional Diploma in Cookery Course or BakingandPatisserie Course 100% for free at the Institute's award-winning culinary training facility in Dubai Knowledge Park. Upon successful completion of the program, each Scholar receives an International Diploma from CityandGuilds, London, UK Global, along with a Global Chef Certification from Worldchefs. Both qualifications are eminently recognised and respected globally, thus opening up wonderful new opportunities the world over for these young graduates.
"At ICCA Dubai, we take pride in what we do. With the Class of 2021 graduates, we have trained and certified 125 young industry chefs to date, staying true to our commitment and resolve to truly make an impact,"says Mr Raja.
Years of success
Over the years, this program has seen tremendous success. Chefs who had entered with a salary of approximately $6,000 per annum went on to command remunerations of $65,000 to $70,000 per annum in countries such Australia, UK, Canada, Germany, and Sweden, all thanks to having received the required certifications and qualifications through this program and augmented by their industry experience, of course. The Scholarship Program has been tremendously successful, not only helping young chefs find budding careers but also helping to uplift their dependents and families as well in the long run.
For this initiative, ICCA Dubai has committed more than AED 1 million each year to train the batch of young chefs. Further, many organisations and establishments from the industry have expressed interest in sponsoring even more Scholars to benefit from the Continuing Education Award. For example, with the help of sponsors such as US Cheese Guild, US Poultry and Egg Export Council, and Nestl Professional, additional students have been added to each batch, and the curriculum has been expanded, from Cooking to including the Baking and Patisserie course as well.
"The difference between a Cook and a Chef lies in the knowledge and understanding of the how and why of cooking. With so many young chefs coming from a non-culinary background and having entered the industry without formal training, this program has helped articulate their fundamentals while strengthening their knowledge and skills to make them more confident and proficient in the kitchen. It is heartening to see them evolve over the year from the time they start their first lesson at ICCA Dubai to this day as they graduate. We are confident that the program will not only change their way of working but also their perspective towards their profession as well as themselves. Needless to say, immense opportunities await these graduated scholars, who are now well equipped for professional growth and excellence,"says Shanaaz Raja, the Director of Courses at ICCA Dubai and a Member of the ICCA Dubai Culinary Scholarship Committee.
Organisations interested to sponsor graduates for the Culinary Scholarship can contact ICCA Dubai email@example.com,call +971 4 457 8811, or visit the premises at Block 8, First Floor, Dubai Knowledge Park.