For the restaurant industry, workforce development is always on the menu

On July 19, 2018, the National Restaurant Association signed the White House’s Pledge to America’s Workers committing to train nearly 370,000 people seeking industry careers over the next five years. Across America, the restaurant industry is on track to employ more than 15 million people in 2018; at the same time, however, restaurant owners and operators consistently report employee recruitment and retention as their biggest challenge.  As Americans are looking for careers with advancement potential and training opportunities, we are proud to offer jobs that provide the fundamental skills for life and a host of different training opportunities for every skill level.

As the backbone of American communities, restaurants are investing in our nation’s workforce to help close the skills gap in our country and strengthen our local economies at the same time. Through a series of workforce development initiatives, including pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, certification and continuing education programs, we are making significant changes in how restaurant and hospitality companies will hire employees and operate their businesses. Most importantly, we are positioning tomorrow’s leaders for success – both in our industry and in scores of others. 

Approximately 140,000 high-school students are enrolled in our ProStart culinary and restaurant management programs, and we expect another 364,000 to participate over the five-year period.  ManageFirst, our post-secondary education program at more than 350 U.S. colleges and universities, is going to engage another 45,000 students by 2023. 

In addition to graduating students, nearly 200,000 service members return to the civilian workforce each year. The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) Military Programs is developing content to assist service men and women with training and apprenticeships that will help prepare them for industry careers when they complete their active duty assignments. In our work with each respective Armed Forces Food division, we are working towards formalizing training strategies to develop content that allows military food service members to be better prepared to complete the NRAEF restaurant manager apprenticeship program.  Our goal is to expand that program to include other military specialties, so that we can grow that number into the tens of thousands.

We all hold responsibility for training the next generation of workers and it is incumbent on policymakers and industry to work together to accomplish this goal.  The Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship program, which we have created in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Department of Labor, already has employer commitments to develop 1,100 new hospitality managers via apprenticeship, and we estimate at least 2,500 additional apprentices over the next three years.   Additionally, our new ServSuccess career-development program is going to expand access to jobs, and provide skill assessment and training, impacting more than 2,000 industry professionals. 

Restaurants are woven into the fabric and essence of America. Each day, millions of Americans choose local restaurants as the centerpiece for the most special moments of their lives. When restaurants succeed, guests, employees and American communities succeed.

Our goal is ambitious: train nearly 370,000 current or future restaurant industry employees in the next five years.  We are confident we can achieve this through continued partnerships with educational institutions, expanding our offerings to more veterans and students, and working with policymakers to identify and implement more solutions. That is why we want everyone to know that restaurants are open for business and committed to helping millions of people achieve a brighter future.

Dawn Sweeney is president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.