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How to become a catering assistant

You can become a catering assistant in the NHS by applying for vacancies on our recruitment website. 

What is a catering assistant?

Good food is essential to patient care. Catering teams provide freshly cooked meals that meet patients' medical and cultural needs and promote healthy living.

When working in a hospital kitchen, catering assistants prepare, pack and distribute meals. In food retail and dining areas, they operate cash registers and serve food to patients, staff and visitors.

Catering assistants also make sure the hospital kitchens, food preparation, food service, and dining areas are clean, hygienic, and welcoming.

Starting your career as a catering assistant

Choosing subjects at school

To become a catering assistant, you'll need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:

  • English
  • Health and Food Technology
  • Maths 

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Workplacements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.

Education and training pathway

Some food preparation, cooking, and customer service experience is useful for a career in catering services.

College courses

If you choose to go to college, you could do the following qualifications to learn some of the skills and knowledge needed for this role:

  • SVQ Hospitality at SCQF level 4
  • SVQ Customer Service at SCQF level 4

You can apply for vacancies on our recruitment website.

Course search

Search for college courses on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

As a catering assistant, you'll carry out a wide range of general catering tasks so that a high level of service is provided at all times.

Tasks may include: 

  • food preparation and service
  • load and unload distribution trolleys
  • clean and fill vending machines
  • operate cash registers
  • clean kitchen and dining areas
  • stock control of catering supplies
  • food quality control
  • operate catering equipment and report faults
  • recycle and dispose of waste appropriately

You'll need these skills:

  • communicating
  • collaborating
  • focussing
  • initiative

Catering assistants work with the following: 

  • catering manager
  • catering supervisor
  • chef
  • cook
  • porter
  • healthcare support worker
  • nurse

You could work in: 

  • hospital kitchens
  • hospital wards
  • dining areas
  • retail outlets

Learning and development

Learning specific to your role includes:

  • Catering Workbook
  • Elementary Food Hygiene at SCQF level 5

Your NHS employer will confirm their training requirements during your induction.

Career progression

Once in the job, there are opportunities to progress. Support is also available to help you develop your skills and encourage you to take qualifications, including:

  • SVQ Food Production and Cooking at SCQF level 5
  • SVQ Kitchen Services at SCQF level 5

Gaining new qualifications will help you when applying for more senior roles, such as team leader or catering supervisor.

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