A Catering Assistant preparing food for takeaway

How to change careers from a Warehouse Operative Job to a Catering Assistant Job

Over the past few weeks, amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, you may have found yourself with extra time on your hands; a time to consider whether Warehouse Operative jobs are what you want to do long term or whether now is the time to consider a job change? Have you had a yearning to work with food? Do you aspire to becoming a Chef one day? If so, researching how to change careers and considering Catering Assistant jobs as your next move is a step in the right direction. 

Even in these uncertain times there are still opportunities for Catering Assistant jobs, especially in healthcare environments. Read on to learn more about this career change. 

What are the basic requirements for Catering Assistant jobs?

Catering Assistant jobs can vary greatly depending on where you work. In a restaurant you can expect a fast-paced, sometimes stressful dinner service with long hours, often late into the evening. In a hospital the day is more evenly structured with more sociable shifts, but the job still requires hard work and dependability. 

No two days are ever the same in any commercial kitchen environment, so if you want to work in the catering industry and thrive on a fast-paced, varied role, then changing jobs to become a Catering Assistant is a good start. 

The requirements for Catering Assistant jobs:

  • Flexibility and reliability - You will be expected to do anything from cleaning to dishwashing, from peeling vegetables to serving customers, from organising the stockroom to making sandwiches. You must be prepared and able to take on a variety of tasks throughout your work day. You will also need to be flexible with your work schedule as shift work, late nights and weekends often go hand in hand with Catering Assistant jobs.
  • A team player - Working in a busy kitchen means being part of a team of Chefs, Catering Assistants and Management. You need to be able to work alongside others, take orders and carry them out quickly and efficiently.
  • Ability to use your initiative - There are times when you will have to work independently and need to be able to make your own appropriate decisions.
  • Customer service skills - Catering Assistant jobs may require you to interact directly with the customers, so you need to be able to deal with a variety of situations in a calm and professional manner.
  • Communication skills - All Catering jobs require you to be able to communicate well with both co-workers and customers, so having good communicative and social skills is important.
  • Willingness to learn - If you want to work in catering then a genuine interest in cooking and food service will help with your success. Experience is not always necessary for Catering Assistant jobs, but a willingness to learn and work hard is important if you want to make this a permanent career change. This can be anything from learning to use food preparation equipment to the latest cooking techniques.
  • Good food hygiene knowledge and practice - Good hygiene has always been an important part of working in a commercial kitchen. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic extra measures have been brought in and it is extremely important that good personal hygiene and food hygiene is practiced at all times. 
  • Physical fitness and good stamina - Catering jobs require you to be on your feet all day in an often hot and noisy environment. You will also need to be able to lift and carry heavy pots and food supplies so it is important to be physically fit for any Catering Assistant role. 

What transferable skills do you have for making a career change from a Warehouse Operative to a Catering Assistant?

Look back over the list above - which of these skills do you have? Working in Warehouse Operative jobs will have given you a lot of experience which can be transferred to other work environments. 

As a Warehouse Operative you will already be used to working shifts and possibly nights, so a job change to a Catering Assistant position might actually prove to be a more sociable schedule. 

Warehouse Operative jobs will definitely have required you to work both independently and as part of a team. You will already be used to working alongside others and taking instructions from your Supervisor. Communication skills are an inherent part of this, so will easily transfer to your new catering job. 

Constantly being on your feet, having to bend and lift heavy or awkward objects is something you will have done a lot of in Warehouse Operative jobs so being fit enough and physically able to do the job of a Catering Assistant should be no problem. 

How can you overcome any experience gaps with this job change?

Many Catering Assistant jobs are entry level positions and basic skills and requirements are taught on the job. However, when thinking about how to change careers, there are some things you can do to help fill any knowledge and experience gaps. 

Food hygiene and safety have always been extremely important in any food establishment and in the current climate it is a good idea to have a valid food safety and hygiene certificate prior to applying for a Catering Assistant job. There are lots of self-study accredited courses available online which can be easily found with a quick search. Learn more about food hygiene standards for health and safety in our recent blog. 

Catering Assistant jobs don’t require a formal qualification but employers often like you to have achieved GCSE’s or their equivalent, particularly English and Maths. If you need to study for these you can find a course through the National Careers Service or enquire with your local college or library. Gaining your Maths or English GCSE is often low cost or even free.

If you want to improve your catering and food knowledge and expertise, there are various places online where you can learn about cooking techniques, food preparation, nutrition and more. 8 ways to train as a Chef for free has lots of useful information about online resources for Chefs.

City & Guilds have a range of qualifications and apprenticeships in Hospitality and Catering which can be studied and achieved alongside a Catering Assistant job to help you advance in your new Catering career. 

Tips for getting a Catering Assistant job

  • Do your research - Despite restaurants, pubs and hotels being unable to open for business as usual at the present time, there are still Catering Assistant jobs in other hospitality sectors. For advice on this, read our blog on Adapting to & coping with catering jobs in healthcare environments amidst COVID-19. Our page on how to become a Kitchen Assistant will give you more suggestions and advice on how to change careers to the catering industry.
  • Update your CV - Include all relevant experience and transferable skills from your Warehouse Operative jobs. Read our top 5 tips for CV writing and use our tailored CV template to get started.
  • Find an apprenticeship - Apprenticeships are a good way to get started when making a career change, combining work and qualifications. The gov.uk website is a good place to start.

Tips for overcoming challenges and progressing in your new career as a Catering Assistant

  • Familiarise yourself with the policies and requirements of the workplace – different kitchens will vary so be sure to know the rules.
  • Listen, watch and learn from the experienced Chefs.
  • Be prepared for criticism, but learn from it.
  • Have a positive attitude – keep a smile on your face whether it’s a difficult customer or a stressed work colleague.
  • Find a catering job with hours that fit your personal life –if you have a family, then a job with fixed hours in a hospital, care home or school might be more suitable. 

The best way to learn about any prospective career change is to hear from someone who is experienced in the job themselves. Read What’s it like to be a Catering Assistant? to find out more from Blue Arrow employee, Kadir. 

What are the future career prospects for a Catering Assistant?

If you are thinking about how to change careers to become a Chef, then Catering Assistant jobs are a good way to get your first experience working in a commercial kitchen. Once you are sure that this is the right career change for you, then a Catering Assistant job can be a stepping stone to becoming a Commis Chef – the first big step onto the Chef career ladder

For the most up-to-date availability for Catering Assistant jobs, view our Hospitality and Catering jobs page.

To continue in your Warehouse career, you can find the latest Warehouse Operative jobs here

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