Jascots has revealed plans to launch a wine training programme for the on-trade early next year, which all began with the appointment of former Cubitt House beverage manager Matthew Cocks.
Cocks was appointed head of wine training development at the specialist wine supplier in September, and tasked with creating content for a series of wine courses for on-trade staff. Research conducted by Jascots suggests that 81% of London hospitality workers are born outside the UK, and that many have 'poor written communication skills'. As a result, Cocks intends to put greater focus on oral examinations for his course.
'I have seen first-hand during my time at Cubitt House the difficulties that staff in the industry face,' Cocks told Imbibe. 'Whilst at Cubitt House, the staff that we sent to the WSET performed very well on the WSET Intermediate. However, when our staff attempted the WSET Advanced, where there is a shift towards written short answer questions in addition to multiple choice questions, the issue that our staff faced was not a deficit in knowledge, but rather an inability to express what they knew in written format, under exam conditions. They needed to express it in a different medium.
'It could be argued that an oral examination would be suitable for workers who spend time communicating to customers in the same medium in the workplace,' he added.
Jascots is no stranger to staff training, although this new programme, set to start in February 2016, is a significant step forward. The plan is to create a series of courses aimed at four different types of workers: waiters, supervisors, sales and category heads. Waiters, for example, require 'confidence in wine, serving it, and engaging with customers about it', while category heads are 'people who may be in buying roles and need to learn how to range plan, negotiate, and assess wine for quality'.
'I have no wish to take anything away from existing programs of education such as the WSET or CMS [Court of Master Sommeliers],' Cocks continued. 'I have studied with both myself, and they have a lot to offer. However, I do believe that they are difficult for a majority of staff in the industry to attempt.'
The timing of the new training course does come soon after the WSET and CMS teamed up to create a sommelier career route map. 'We see our training as fitting into the middle of that,' says Cocks. 'There are a large number of staff within the hospitality industry who need to understand what wine is as a product, and how it plays a role in both the industry and their workplace. Waiters, supervisors, events managers, and operations directors are all examples of this.
'The WSET is too academic for some, and its focus is on people preparing for buying roles within the wine trade. The CMS focuses on preparing those who seek to work in a sommelier role. There are a lot of people who fall into a gap between the two and it is these people who we are seeking to train. We won’t be going into as much detail as the other courses. If people are seeking more technical information, Jascots is also a WSET provider and we can run that program for them. If they discover wine via our courses and are seeking to go down the sommelier path, we can direct them to the CMS to pursue that ambition.'
The programme will first be trialled internally for Jascots employees, after which it will be released to 'current clients who have expressed interest in, and in some cases precipitated, its development,' says Cocks. After that, some third parties, like catering colleges, will have access to the courses.