Competition for employees continues to intensify. Thirty-five percent of restaurant operators indicate that they currently have job openings that are difficult to fill, up from 27% who reported similarly in 2015, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Industry report.
But the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) has an excellent resource for anyone looking for emerging talent and future leaders. ProStart is a nationwide program for high school students that focuses on developing the next generation of industry professionals. The program is industry-driven, combining culinary arts and restaurant management training to build practical skills both in the classroom and on the job. It is incorporated into curriculums in more than 1,900 schools across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Territory of Guam and Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Europe and the Pacific. Nearly 150,000 students participate in ProStart.
The main event
Each year, more than 400 ProStart students advance from winning their state-level competitions to compete at the National ProStart Invitational (NPSI), the country’s premier high school restaurant management and culinary skills competition. Their goal: wow the judges with their unique business proposals for an original restaurant concept in the management competition (sponsored by Ecolab), and for the culinary competition, prepare the winning three-course meal using only butane burners (and forgoing access to electricity and running water). In addition to bragging rights, the winning state and national teams are awarded scholarships from the NRAEF and Burger King McLamore Foundation to pursue post-secondary education. At last year’s NPSI, the NRAEF awarded more than $200,000 in scholarships.
New for 2019
After several years of being hosted in cities around the country, NPSI is establishing Washington, D.C., as its new home. Also for the first time, the NRAEF is bringing its ProStart Educators of Excellence Awards, sponsored by Golden Corral, to NPSI to recognize the nation’s best ProStart educators.
This year’s programming includes Q&A sessions where students have the chance to interact, question and learn from industry leaders. Each session, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, will focus on topics ranging from starting your own business to running a major foodservice operation. Participants include Andrew Dana, CEO of Timber Pizza Co. and founder of Call Your Mother, and award-winning chef Jerome Grant, executive chef at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and sous chef at the National Museum of the American Indian.
To learn more about getting involved in the 2019 National ProStart Invitational, held May 8-10 in Washington, D.C., visit ChooseRestaurants.org/npsi. The three-day event is open to the public, and attendance is expected to exceed 1,000 people.