Updated March 31 at 8:31pm

Training programs feed R.I. eateries

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

Just a year ago, Stephanie Hebert was a long-term unemployed woman in her mid-20s without a college education or high school diploma – exactly the population at risk for chronic joblessness and public-assistance dependence. More

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Training programs feed R.I. eateries

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Just a year ago, Stephanie Hebert was a long-term unemployed woman in her mid-20s without a college education or high school diploma – exactly the population at risk for chronic joblessness and public-assistance dependence.

But Hebert was determined not to have that happen and today she has her GED and is employed at an Uno Chicago Grill in Smithfield as a line cook, a profession she previously never considered.

Her turning point was a chance encounter with a staff member at Connecting for Children and Families and embracing an opportunity to take part in that organization’s Culinary Arts Program that seeks to provide the unemployed and under-employed with a strong set of practical and soft skills to meet the culinary industry’s employment demands.

The Governor’s Workforce Board recently awarded Connecting Children & Families a $168,366 Innovative Partnership grant that will allow program expansion. The board made a similar award to Amos House of Providence, a nonprofit social services agency, with a $145,282 grant to expand a culinary training program that has run there since 2002.

“Hospitality is one of the industry sectors that the Governor’s Workforce Board has identified as high-growth. If we were going to provide relevant programs we wanted to ensure they were high-demand industries,” Connecting for Children Director Heidi Collins said. “And that we are training [people] with skills that employers are often saying they can’t find to fill positions.”

The R.I. Department of Labor and Training labor-market information predicted an approximate 17 percent growth in restaurant-cook positions between 2010 and 2020. It has predicated just under 10 percent job growth in short-order cooks, an 18.4 percent growth in institution- and cafeteria-cook positions, a 9.4 percent growth in food-batch makers, about a 7.1 percent growth in food-preparation workers, and a 17 percent growth in nonrestaurant food servers.

For Hebert, the Connecting Children for Families program has been a lifesaver.

“I don’t even know if I’d have a job at this point,” she said. “I was unemployed for so long, and I feel like the program helped me get a job. … I learned nice skills.”

Connecting Children for Families, a Woonsocket nonprofit that focuses on improving the quality of family and community life, began the culinary-training program in March 2011 as part of its Center for Financial Success.

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