By: Dawn Sweeney, President and CEO, National Restaurant Association
Are you a “regular” at a restaurant? You know the place—the neighborhood spot you visit so frequently that the team members know your name. Maybe they even know what you’ll order before you sit down in your favorite booth.
You’ve come to love the experience and appreciate your favorite restaurant’s quick service and friendly staff, but what you may not know is that those team members aren’t just earning a paycheck. They have the opportunity to gain fundamental values that will serve them well for the rest of their careers, including personal responsibility, hard work and discipline.
At the National Restaurant Association, we are working to offer opportunities to open doors for everyone. The restaurant industry provides fundamental skills that help pave a career path for our employees. Last year, our Educational Foundation was awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Labor to create the first ever federal apprenticeship program for the hospitality industry. We teamed up with the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and officially launched the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship (HSRA) project in February.
Through HSRA, we will place nearly 500 apprentices in the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industries this year. Here are four ways that this program will help transform our nation’s workforce and create more career opportunities through apprenticeships.
- Restaurant apprenticeships are about more than greeting guests or waiting tables – they offer training in a wide variety of professional skills. The HSRA program gives apprentices the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill sets through completion of several courses, including financial management, leadership strategy, branding and marketing, and front-of-the-house/customer service, among other topics. Mastering these skills makes apprentices more desirable as managerial candidates and earns them opportunities to advance their careers, no matter the industry.
- Apprentices can “earn while they learn.” Imagine that you learn not only on the job, but also have classroom learning to prepare you for a restaurant management career. That is the essence of an apprenticeship program: “earn while you learn.” The classroom learning reinforces what you learn on the job and allows you to earn industry credentials, such as ServSafe Food Handler and ServSafe Manager, as well as a national, portable credential from the U. S. Department of Labor.
- Apprenticeships benefit employees – and they also benefit businesses. Employee retention is key to any successful restaurant’s operations. Managers often cite recruitment and retention as some of their top challenges, and as the economy improves and employment levels rise, competition for qualified employees increases. Companies involved in apprenticeship programs often see improved workforce recruitment, a reduction in turnover and increased employee productivity, per the U.S. Department of Labor.
- HSRA apprenticeships can be a model for more affordable and effective job training programs. Apprenticeships offer an affordable alternative to a four-year degree without the burden of a six-figure student loan. They provide employees with fundamental skills to guide them through their careers in ours or in any industry they ultimately choose.
The apprenticeship program is a prime example of how government and the business community can work together to create a stronger American workforce. Together, we can build even more programs—in more industries—to create more jobs. That’s how we ensure our children and grandchildren are prepared for the job markets of the future.
That is why the National Restaurant Association supported the Trump Administration’s Executive Order earlier this year to modernize, expand and streamline the apprenticeship process. I am also honored to represent the restaurant and hospitality industry as a member of Labor Secretary Acosta’s recently announced the White House Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion. Now, we’ll have even more opportunities to help employees in the hospitality industry build fulfilling and rewarding careers.
We hope you’ll raise your glass to programs like this: ones that make for a more confident, more knowledgeable and more fulfilled restaurant team and a more prepared workforce for America’s future.