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Brinker plans to develop 250 restaurant managers through apprenticeships

The parent of Chili's and Maggiano's has made the biggest commitment to date to participate in a new industrywide development program.

Chili’s parent Brinker International has committed to creating 250 apprenticeship slots for aspiring managers under the program developed by the National Restaurant Association as a model for other industries.

The casual-dining giant's agreement to provide earn-as-you-learn training is the largest commitment yet by an employer to the pilot apprenticeship program. Three weeks ago, Taco Mac became the first employer of size to announce its participation, saying that it was enrolling 50 current employees in the venture.

The initiative, funded through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, aims to provide young people with a career track to restaurant management positions. Enrollees learn on the job as well as via classroom and e-learning instruction, with full pay and benefits.

Apprenticeships have been championed by the White House as an alternative career path for young adults who aren’t interested in attending college or are put off by the cost of higher education. The restaurant association’s educational arm, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), has been working with the DOL for several years on the creation of an apprenticeship program feasible for today’s marketplace. It struck an agreement with the DOL in 2016 to create a model program.

The Hospitality Sector Registered Alliance sets competencies that enrollees need to master to be certified as capable restaurant managers. The curriculum was developed by looking at the skills embodied by a successful GM or other restaurant or hotel manager.

Brinker helped in developing that skills roster, according to executives of the restaurant association. The company is one of the biggest players in casual dining, operating both the Chili's and Maggiano's Little Italy brands.

“The restaurant industry is known for being a stop along the way in most people’s career, but our industry is in jeopardy if we don’t show team members a clear path to long-term growth, so at Brinker we’re leading the way,” Rick Badgley, the company’s SVP and chief people officer, said in a statement.

He noted that skills learned by enrollees would make them suitable managers for any restaurant operation. “This gives team members a foundation of industry accomplishment for their next step,” Badgley said.

“This apprenticeship program will provide education and training opportunities to create a more defined career path for the millions of Americans who work in restaurants, foodservice and hospitality,” said Rob Gifford, EVP of the NRAEF.

Under the association’s $1.8 million contract with the Department of Labor, 1,000 apprenticeships will be created for the hospitality program’s launch.

Legislation is being eyed by some members of Congress as a way of creating an apprenticeship program for the trucking industry, another trade struggling to find capable employees.  The restaurant industry is supporting that effort as a way of keeping down food costs. 

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