By Lyle Hildahl, WRA Education Foundation director
I was thinking that back when I had my restaurant, the landscape was very different. We had our challenges, but certainly not at the level restaurant owners are facing today. Minimum wage, healthcare, tourism… Washington is just a really tough place to do business. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for capable, qualified, motivated employees that want to work, who also have an awareness of the basic foundation skills and attitudes like being nice, being clean, understanding teamwork, knowing how to solve problems, helping the dishwasher, being the dishwasher and having a “What more can I do?” attitude.
The Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation can give you access to some of these rock star employees. But it takes some involvement on your part. We have 31 high school programs that the foundation partners with to facilitate an industry connection to the teaching and learning environment. You get to tell the students about the real world, and while they are listening, you get to recruit. And more importantly, the more you are involved with the students, the easier it gets to find the rock stars in the group.
ProStart is just one avenue. We also have connections to the community college culinary programs and universities. All are required to have an advisory committee. We can connect you to whatever college that interests you, and as a member of their advisory committee, you will have access to the students at the college level.
On another front, the foundation is working on some projects with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, education services districts, Pacific Mountain WorkSource Center and some private foundations to develop training centers around the state for the hospitality and tourism sector. More to come on that.
Connecting and helping students at high schools, colleges and universities do more than make the heart feel good. If you play your cards right and make the local news media aware of the work you are doing with schools, your seats start to fill up in the restaurant because the community wants to support you for supporting the kids.
“Engaging with Pro-Start is a natural fit for restaurateurs,” said Jacque Farrell, operations manager for Farrelli’s Wood Fire Pizza. “I have been able to get to know students then hire engaging pre- motivated young people. Pro-Start is an amazing way for my stores and myself to get to know our future as well as to help mold it!”
(Source: Washington Restaurant Magazine, Winter 2014)