America's Skills Gap

National Restaurant Association CEO Explains Importance of Closing America's Skills Gap

Dawn Sweeney talks about how the National Restaurant Association apprenticeship program and other workforce development initiatives are going to help employees advance their industry careers.
Apprentices in a kitchen
National Restaurant Association CEO Explains Importance of Closing America's Skills Gap

National Restaurant Association

Late last month, 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.

Through various initiatives and programs, the Association and its Eduacational Foundation are working to help companies invest in labor and close the skills gap challenging the country.

In an Aug. 3 Op-Ed, Dawn Sweeney, our president and CEO, explains why this investment is important and how it will affect the industry’s future.

Dawn Sweeney

Why we made our pledge: Not everyone is meant for college, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want successful careers and a pathway to the middle class. 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.

Why it’s important: The restaurant industry is on track to employ more than 15 million people this year, but, at the same time, restaurant owners and operators say employee recruitment and retention are their biggest challenges. Assisting Americans seeking career advancement through a combination of education and on-the-job training will provide opportunities for employees and position businesses to recruit the best and brightest workforce.

The significance of apprenticeship programs: We hold responsibility for training the next generation of workers and it is incumbent on policymakers and industry to work together to accomplish this goal. Our Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship program, 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 more apprentices over the next three years.

The reach of our workforce development programs: 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, as nearly 200,000 service members return to the civilian workforce each year, our military programs division is working develop training strategies and content that will prepare them to participate in and complete our restaurant manager apprenticeship program.

“We’re confident we can achieve our goal through continued partnerships with educational institutions, by expanding offerings to more veterans and students, and working with policymakers to identify and implement more solutions,” Sweeney says. “Restaurants are committed to helping millions of people achieve a brighter future.”

Learn more about the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and industry career path initiatives

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