An action Thursday by President Trump is expected to ease restaurants’ labor struggles long term by helping the industry position itself as a career path that can begin without a costly higher education.
An executive order issued by the president blows the dust off long-standing Department of Labor rules for apprenticeships, a mode of career development that has come back into vogue as the price of college has skyrocketed.
At the direction of the president, DOL’s function of developing federally funded apprenticeship programs is essentially shifting to private industry. Trades like the restaurant business can create their own programs, tailored to the peculiar needs of the industry and its employers.
The executive order also doubles the federal funding available for apprenticeships, and encourages colleges, high schools and other learning and training institutions to start programs.
“Apprenticeships place students into great jobs without the crippling debt of traditional four-year college degrees,” Trump said in revealing the executive order. “Instead, apprentices earn while they learn.”
In the case of the restaurant business, an apprenticeship program for prospective restaurant managers is already being developed by the National Restaurant Association and its educational arm, the NRA Educational Foundation. The effort dovetails with a new initiative called Choose Restaurants, which establishes a career ladder as an enticement for people to remain in the business. An individual can learn precisely what skills they need to qualify for a higher-level or more specialized position.
The NRA was awarded a contract last year by the DOL to develop an apprenticeship program for prospective restaurant managers, a one-of-a-kind arrangement. The industry learned through the qualification process that long-standing federal apprenticeship standards, developed largely for construction jobs, were sometimes difficult to adapt to a modern workplace.
“The executive order is intended to bridge the gap between the old apprenticeship model and how things work in the real world of [places like] restaurants,” explained Rob Gifford, EVP of the NRAEF. “To streamline the process, to make this more user friendly, will really help [apprenticeships’] adoption.”
Because of the NRA’s contractual relationship with DOL, the industry may be ahead of other trades in that respect. The last quarter of 2016 was spent identifying the competencies an effective restaurant manager needs and how to cultivate them, Gifford said.
“The belief is that the restaurant industry knows what’s best to teach for someone to become a restaurant manager,” he said.
The contract with DOL calls for recruiting 450 apprentices across the restaurant, noncommercial foodservice and hospitality trades. The apprenticeships could extend for six months to two years.
Trump’s executive order, part of the president’s efforts to ease the burdens on the business community, drew praise from the NRA.
“Apprenticeships create more affordable education and job training, especially for those Americans who want to work in the hospitality, restaurant and foodservice industry,” CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a statement. “With today’s executive order we will have even more opportunities to help employees in the hospitality industry move up the ladder for fulfilling and rewarding careers.”
“This is one of a number things we’re involved with to help America’s workforce see our industry as a profession you can advance in toward sustaining and rewarding careers,” said Gifford. “The more we can do to demonstrate that this is an industry that invests in its own, the better off we are, not just in growing the number of premises, but in growing the number of people who want to work in this great industry.”