Restaurant Foundation Wins Grant to Train Prison Inmates for Industry Jobs

A new $4.5 million grant to the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will go toward developing training programs for incarcerated young adults and finding them jobs when they’re released.

A new program being launched by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation will address the industry’s labor shortage while helping to create job opportunities for formerly incarcerated young adults.

NRAEF recently received a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the Hospitality Opportunities for People (re)Entering Society (HOPES) program over a three-year period.

“We have one million unfilled jobs; the labor demand is very high right now,” said NRAEF Vice President of Communications Gordon Lambourne. “There is definitely a need. It is a win-win for both the individual and the industry.”

Funds from the grant will be used to roll out HOPES in four cities: Boston; Chicago; and Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia. “We are working in those cities, with the department of corrections and state restaurant associations, who are familiar with the work we are trying to do,” Lambourne said.

Since NRAEF’s mission is education and training, it already has models in place that it plans to transfer to HOPES to help get former inmates trained.

“The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has a long track record—our whole mission is to attract, empower and advance, so we are skilled at training and education,” Lambourne said. “That individual getting a job quickly is very important in terms of them getting on track quickly and finding some stability and independence. We hope this is a start to a career in our industry.”

Members of National Restaurant Association will both assist with and benefit from this program. “From the association standpoint, for members, they are the folks that will be ultimately hiring the people that participate in our programs,” Lambourne said. “They play a very important role in the ultimate goal of all these programs, which is getting people employed and on the way to a career in our industry.”

While the high unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people suggest employers are reluctant to hire them, Lambourne said the restaurant industry views their employment differently.

“People see this as a real opportunity to help these folks out in getting their lives back on track,” he said. “Restaurants, in general, are very community-focused. I think this fits right into that kind of mission and will be a big win all the way around.”

NRAEF hasn’t started working with former inmates yet. “There is still a lot of work to do,” Lambourne said. “Our goal is to get it moving as quick as possible.”

While the specifics of the program are still being hammered out, NRAEF expects state restaurant associations and local members to play a role in making it work. “Once someone completes the program, they are placed in a job in the local market area where the programs are starting out,” Lambourne said. “We are very excited about developing the program and working with lots of different organizations and businesses to help make an impact.”

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Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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