A smart move on apprenticeships

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News that the Delaware Department of Labor and the Delaware Restaurant Association have partnered on an apprenticeship program for culinary professionals is welcome news.

The industry continues to thrive, despite a high casualty rate that comes with the territory.

The need for skilled professionals has grown at a time when customers insist on fresh ingredients and top-notch preparation. Another key area is food service as educational institutions and employers insist on high-quality fare.

We also know that nations, like Germany, have intense apprenticeship programs that have produced skilled professionals who staff many of the top hotels and kitchens around the U.S.

The restaurant industry now accounts for one out of 10 jobs in Delaware. While perceived as an industry with low pay, skilled professionals can earn decent paychecks with the opportunity for advancement.

Training programs exist, but often involve going to work for a top-notch operator with a limited number of openings.

The restaurant and food industry is often a welcoming environment for people in need of a second or even third chance.

One example of the potential can be seen in the late Matt Haley who found his happy place in therestaurant business after doing prison time and going into recovery. After ups and downs in the business, he went on to build SoDel Concepts, a thriving collection of restaurants in Coastal Delaware.

An apprenticeship program may not produce another Matt Haley, but it will provide the kind of people SoDel and other restaurant groups need in an increasingly important and complex industry.

If the culinary areaproves successful, apprenticeship programs should be expanded to include other areas beyond the building trades.

While on the subject of trades, the Department of Labor and various constituencies need to focus more intensely on marketing traditional apprenticeship programs and look for ways to overcome stereotypes of work being dirty and dangerous.

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