The educational arm of the National Restaurant Association has won a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to help more young people take the next step in their pursuit of a restaurant career.
The money will be used to connect ProStart, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s program for high schoolers interested in a culinary or restaurant-management career, with the foundation’s earn-while-you-learn initiative, Youth Readiness Apprenticeships, where frontline workers are trained to become managers in the chain that employs them.
Similarly, the funds will be used to establish a bridge between the foundation’s program for at-risk young people, Restaurant Ready, and apprenticeships. Restaurant Ready provides a path to a restaurant career for youngsters aged 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working.
All three programs—ProStart, Youth Readiness and Restaurant Ready—have been hailed by members of the industry, educators, government figures and parents as model ways of helping youngsters disinterested in a traditional higher education to develop alternative, rewarding careers. But the initiatives have largely functioned independently. With the DOL funding, the foundation hopes to link the training endeavors into a single track leading to management jobs.
"The additional funding will help us grow our apprenticeship program and give young people the training and education they need to launch a successful career and build a better future for themselves," Rob Gifford, the Foundation’s president, said in a statement. "Through apprenticeship programs, employees have a clear pathway to advancement and a higher income."
Apprenticeships will be initially be linked on a pilot basis to the ProStart and Restaurant Ready programs of four states: Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana and Maryland.
About 150,000 high school students have participated in ProStart. The apprenticeship initiative, which was started and expanded under previous grants from DOL, currently has 2,000 participants. The latter program has a retention rate of 90%.