Educational foundation efforts target labor shortage

Photographs courtesy of the National Restaurant Association

Responding to the current shortage of skilled employees, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has pledged to train and prepare more than 370,000 people for foodservice jobs and careers over the next five years. That feat will be accomplished through a portfolio of programs that provides exploration, a career path and training designed to fill a gap that’s only expected to grow wider: By 2027, it’s estimated the foodservice industry will employ 16.3 million people, up from 14.6 million.

A well-established centerpiece of the Educational Foundation’s efforts is ProStart, a national program for high school students that combines culinary arts and restaurant management training to develop practical skills. Currently, some 150,000 students at more than 1,900 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are involved in the ProStart curriculum, which involves classroom and on-the-job learning.

Each year, more than 400 of those students advance from state-level competitions to face off at the National ProStart Invitational, held recently in Washington D.C. The event gave these top students a chance to connect with leading employers, industry influencers, celebrity chefs and representatives from colleges and universities.

Another NRAEF initiative, Restaurant Ready, is a partnership with community-based organizations designed to help opportunity youth—individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not in school and not working—acquire the skills needed to become financially independent, career-oriented adults. The Educational Foundation facilitates connections among the community-based organizations, potential employers and state restaurant associations to ensure that resources and funds are available to support the goals of Restaurant Ready—providing skills training, encouraging collaborative efforts among the stakeholders and exposing participants to the potential for a career in foodservice.

For instance, Café Momentum in Dallas, one of the community groups, is a teaching restaurant that provides culinary, job and life skill training for at-risk and formerly incarcerated young adults. The site offers a 12-month internship program, mentoring and support.

Launched as a pilot program in 2016, Restaurant Ready has expanded to 8 locations across the country.


NRAEF also provides options for current foodservice employees to establish a path toward management positions. One route is apprenticeships funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to help hourly employees acquire skills that will qualify them for higher-paying managerial roles. Apprentices participate in a competency-based program that includes on-the-job training and classroom work covering front- and back-of-house leadership and operations fundamentals such as marketing, budgeting, menu development and more.

Depending on the ability of the apprentice, completion of this earn-while-you-learn program can take six months to two years. Once they complete the curriculum, apprentices receive two nationally recognized credentials from the restaurant industry and the Labor Department.

The Educational Foundation is also a leading scholarship provider. The Foundation and its academic partners award more than $800,000 in scholarships and grants each year to help individuals pursue post-secondary education in the restaurant and foodservice sector. And those funds are not limited to students only: educators who enroll in an NRAEF Summer Institute program can apply for $1,700 grants to defray the cost to attend.

To learn more about these and other NRAEF offerings, visit Booth #6600.

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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