Hospitality Associations Kick Off Workforce Program, With Labor Department Support

A recent White House executive order gives associations more latitude in designing apprenticeship programs to help build the nation’s future workforce. One example: a new program launched by two groups in the hospitality space, supported by a federal grant.

To help address the skills gap in the U.S. workforce, two associations have partnered to launch an apprenticeship program under the oversight of the Department of Labor.

The Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project is the brainchild of two organizations, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, which have established a set of standards for people entering the foodservice and hospitality industries. Under the program, NRAEF and AHLA work with member companies to conduct the training, with the goal of enrolling 450 apprentices by the end of 2017.

Under the program, 450 apprentices are anticipated to be enrolled by year’s end.

“There’s a real combined, concerted effort to present this to both the hotel and restaurant industries as a great way to build a company workforce,” says Gordon Lambourne, vice president, communications, at NRAEF.  “This is a tremendous value-add to our position. And I would say the same for AHLA.”

The program was launched last fall, when NRAEF received a $1.8 million grant from the Department of Labor to develop standards for various job roles within the industry. Apprentice restaurant managers, for instance, receive 1,000 hours of training in financial management, purchasing, staffing, leadership strategy, safety and regulations, and marketing, with checklists for achieving various competencies. Participants receive a certification upon completing the program.

“The beauty of the certification is that it’s a standardized recognition that you completed this,” Lambourne says. “And you could take those [and] apply them anywhere you work.”

Lambourne says 160 apprentices are currently committed to the program though member companies. It has a five-year goal of training 2,250 apprentices.

Programs such as the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship Project received a boost in June, when President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order streamlining the apprenticeship process and increasing funding to support such programs. Though only about 500,000 American workers participate in apprenticeships, mostly in manufacturing and construction, they are often touted as an increasingly valuable alternative path to employment that doesn’t involve college—or college debt. (Indeed, the administration often uses the phrase “earn while you learn” when discussing apprenticeships.)

Under the NRAEF-AHLA program, apprentice restaurant managers receive an annual salary of $31,000, and NRAEF cites research that full-time restaurant managers earn $50,000 to $60,000 annually.

Lambourne says leadership at NRAEF spoke with White House staffers to provide input on the executive order, which clears a path for associations to take the lead on more apprentice programs. The order directs the Department of Labor to “promote the development of apprenticeship programs by third parties, [which] may include trade and industry groups, companies, nonprofit organizations, unions, and joint labor-management organizations.”

Another virtue of the order, Lambourne says, is its support of training programs for high school students, which meshes with NRAEF’s efforts. Students that take part in its ProStart program will be able to count up to six months of their training toward an apprenticeship certification.

“It was perfect timing for us,” he says. “There’ll certainly be additional developments along the way.”


Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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