The Barista Tale

Correspondence relating to a modern apprenticeship:


November 2011: 
Apprentice opportunity notice forwarded to Adam by Bath Job Centre Plus

Dear Candidate,

The following vacancy may be of interest to you. Please log on to the Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service (using the link below) for further information and to apply.    

Employer The Boston Tea Party

Learning Provider Smart Training & Recruitment  

Vacancy Description   

Apprentice Barista required for Boston Tea party. The title barista is of Italian origin, and in Italian, a barista is a male or female "bartender", who typically works behind a counter, serving both hot drinks (such as espresso), and cold non-alcoholic beverages, not just a coffee-maker specifically. Some coffee enthusiasts reserve the word "barista" for one who has acquired some level of expertise or particular skill in the preparation of such drinks. Baristas use three different types of espresso machines, manual, semi automatic, and automatic.  

Key Details

Vacancy Title Apprentice Barista

Employer The Boston Tea Party

Employer Description

The Boston Tea Party uses 100% arabica beans from a range of countries, imported by our roasters in Somerset, D J Miles & Co. We never use beans roasted more than 10 days previously. This, plus an accurate espresso extraction method, is the key to why our coffee is so tasty, malty, naturally sweet and never bitter. We offer 100% fairly traded coffee.

We are a small chain of family owned (and very proud to say) award winning cafés based in the West Country who pride ourselves on serving outstanding coffee and tea as well as creating delicious, original & affordable meals. We aim to be the antithesis of the homogenised high street dining experience which can be either poor quality or over priced and we are determined to be neither. The Boston Tea Party operates today on the same principles that were laid down at its foundation - to operate fairly, to offer high quality local products at affordable prices and to employ an informed, intelligent and committed workforce. Our ethics are incredibly important to us and to the running of our cafés. We aim to source ethically sound products from local suppliers and to use only free range meat and eggs. We offer an outside catering service offering sandwiches to canapés at weddings, in the office or other special events. Our delicious and renowned cakes are baked once a week on site.

Web Site

Vacancy Location
18 Kingsmead Square Bath

Working Week Mon - Sat 40hrs Max 5/7 days 9am-6pm
Weekly Wage
£ 104.00
Number of Vacancies
vacancy Reference Number

Key Dates

Closing Date For Applications 17/11/2011
Interview Begin From
Possible Start Date


13 Nov 2011:
Letter of complaint sent to complaints dept, Skills Funding Agency in respect of the 
of the above advertisement: 

My son recently received notice of a vacancy for a "barista" - an "exciting apprenticeship opportunity" in Bath: 
Vacancy Reference Number VAC000120276.
Having clarified what a 'barista' actually is I would ask the following
·         How can there actually be a serious apprenticeship in such a position?
·         What category of apprenticeship is this? The information doesn't say
·         What kind of training and qualification would accompany this
   apprenticeship?  (the only training for a barista that we can find any reference to is
   or a 20 hour course spread over "four afternoons")
·         Does the firm offering this "opportunity" receive grants or funding for 
               taking such an apprentice on?
·         Finally, could you explain to me why, at 40 hours a week for just £104, 
               this is not some kind of scam and has nothing to do what most people would 
               understand by the word apprenticeship
Since this is not the only instance of (possibly) highly questionable 
practices in this area that we have notice of I am considering writing full details of this and other
instances to my MP etc etc
I look forward to some answers

Wes 17 Nov 2011 

Dear Frank

Thank you for your e mail which you sent to the complaints section within the Skills Funding Agency. This has been passed to the National Apprenticeship Service as we have responsibility for the programme delivery and quality. 

Please find attached the full vacancy specification - which I believe gives far more detail regarding the background to the company , the job description and the associated Apprenticeship. 

As you can see the vacancy is very comprehensive in outlining the job role, hours and salary together with the Apprenticeship training attached to this position. Additionally, it explains the Minimum Wage legislation which applies to Apprentices, I also give below the link to the relevant national website which also explains the Apprenticeship minimum wage legislation. 

The job offers Apprenticeship training within the Hospitality and Customer Services sector - both of huge importance and value to both employers and individuals. This would be delivered by one of our contracted training Providers - in this case SMART Training and they will have undertaken the necessary checks to ensure the employer is offering a suitable job role which can accommodate an Apprenticeship programme. It is perhaps interesting to note the recent research which shows those with an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship earn on average around £73,000 more over their lifetime than those with other Level 2 qualifications or below; and people with an Advanced Level Apprenticeship (Level 3) around £105,000 more.   

I acknowledge that the present Vacancy Website does not offer the facility to raise queries or complaints  it is primarily a vacancy advertising platform. However, the main Apprenticeship site does have a complaints link through the contact us facility. We constantly review our service and your comments are helpful as we look to improve our communications. 

Finally you asked if the employer receives any grant funding. I am not aware that the employer will receive any grant funding for this Apprenticeship, however there are occasionally programmes for unemployed people operated by Jobcentre Plus where they do have the facility to offer grants to employers for certain categories of jobseeker.  

Hopefully sight of the full vacancy rather than the text message will help your son decide if this is suitable  - obviously he can view this through the Apprenticeship Vacancy site. If you or your son have any further queries I have asked Mr Glenn Crocker within the South West National Apprenticeship Team to take your, or your sons call - please do not hesitate to contact him on 01752  754089.

I also hope your son finds a suitable Apprenticeship in the near future and regularly looking at the Apprenticeship vacancy site is recommended as new opportunities are added daily. 

Best wishes 

Rob Sly 

Rob Sly
Employer Services  Director
National Apprenticeship Service 


Fri 18 Nov

Robert - thank you very much for your lengthy reply - I appreciate 
that, and the details given.
My son who is on a "gap" year with good A Levels, including Physics and 
Design and Technology, is deciding whether to proceed to University or 
take up a vocational, perhaps apprentice, option - but certainly not in 
coffee making!
You will note that the comments by Vince Cable this week announcing 
extra funding for small business apprenticeships leaves me in no doubt 
that the host for the advertised Barista apprenticeship will be seeking 
such funding.  It also becoming very apparent, verified by articles in 
yesterday's Guardian that the actions of Job Centre Plus are leading to 
some very suspect activities. Oddly enough the BHS store in Bath has 
taken a couple of work experience placements in the run up to Christmas 
- my son being one of them - who have  been clearly told that the 
store cannot do without their allocated hours for Sunday trading - 
unpaid of course.  The Guardian article gets to close to calling this 
an infringement of human rights and tantamount to slave labour.
It may be worthy of note that my son and perhaps the growing 
"underclass" of work-seeking youth are becoming increasingly cynical 
about the activities of the Job Centre plus, the threats of withdraw of 
benefits to those who refuse to be used for this "work experience", and 
the general deterioration  of the concept of apprenticeship as 
illustrated by this "barista" business.
Thanks again,
Yours sincerely,