Not for Show: The Apprentice is a Reality

A chef and an apprentice in a kitchen
Not for Show: The Apprentice is a Reality

Apprenticeships deepen our employee talent pool with a skilled workforce. What are you doing to train the next generation of our industry?

There’s a paradigm shift going on. Apprenticeships are being seen as a valuable alternative to college degrees. The reason: not everyone can afford or wants to go to college. Some people are more interested in on-the-job training and not incurring the debt of a four-year degree.

Apprenticeships can help employees advance their careers to the management level, and employers can benefit, too. They deepen our employee talent pool with a skilled and well-trained workforce and also put our industry on parity with other professions.

Most important, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, apprenticeships in restaurants, foodservice and hospitality translate into opportunities that can earn a typical manager between $50,000 and $60,000 a year — a clear pathway to the middle class.

Our industry’s first-ever apprenticeship program

The National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation officially launched its apprenticeship program earlier this year after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship awarded it a $1.8 million contract last fall. The Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship is the industry’s first-ever earn-while-you-learn apprenticeship program. Developed with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, apprentices completing the program are credentialed by the DOL’s Office of Apprenticeship and the NRAEF. The HSRA aims to create career opportunities for the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality workforce. The NRAEF and AHLA plan to enroll 450 apprentices in the program by year-end. John Shortt, the NRAEF’s director of program development, talked about the initiative:

Why now: “There’s an image issue associated with working in restaurants — that we only pay minimum wage and that there’s no room for growth,” Shortt says. “But that’s not true. The BLS reports the average wage of a foodservice manager is $50,000 a year, but that story has yet to be told. Sure, you may go into an apprenticeship making an entry-level wage, but by the end you’ll earn a good living.”

Why it’s important: “We need to professionalize the industry,” he says. “Restaurants can do that by investing in the development of their employees. Companies are not opening as many restaurants right now because they don’t have a sufficient talent pool of trained workers to dip into. That’s something we must address.”

Where are our apprentices coming from? “We’re connecting employers with our ProStart graduates,” Shortt says. “They’ve already completed a two-year program in management and finished 400 hours of on-the-job training. We’re also connecting them with veterans transitioning out of the military as well as their spouses. Last, we’re tapping into opportunity youth who are either not in school, not working, or both. We’ve developed a pilot we’re using at five locations to train them to become restaurant-ready employees.”

Why hire an apprentice: “The benefits are enormous,” he says. “The NRAEF will give employers $1,000 per apprentice to pay for classroom training, transportation, housing or child care. And local workforce investment boards can, in some cases, reimburse employers for up to 75 percent of apprentice wages earned over six months. It’s a win-win.”

Learn more about our apprenticeship program