Get to Work

The CRA’s apprenticeship program brings talent to you.

A young teenage boy and girl wearing white chefs coats and hats standing at a counter in front of loaves of fresh baked bread.
Colorado Restaurant Foundation apprentices won't be quite this young—but almost. / Copyright: Maxim Lupascu

With staffing headaches at an all-time high, the time is right for the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation’s Restaurant Youth Registered Apprenticeship program to launch nationwide. Colorado is one of four states to pilot the program, which, in partnership with restaurants, trains apprentices to become line cooks or go into restaurant management. Think of it as an on-the-job level up from ProStart (the NRA’s culinary education program for high school students). A Q&A with Laura Shunk, president of the Colorado Restaurant Foundation and state director of ProStart.

DiningOut: Why Colorado? 

Laura Shunk: In part because Colorado has one of the strongest ProStart programs in the country. We’ve got more than 1,300 kids in ProStart this year…and we have students looking for the next thing. [Age requirements for the apprenticeship program are 17 for line cooks and 18 for restaurant management.]

DO: How does the program work?

LS: This “earn and learn” approach helps workers start new careers and helps businesses recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce. Apprentices get on-the-job training in your restaurant after receiving classroom instruction.

DO: How do restaurants get involved?

LS: We put out a call for interest to the CRA’s list. We had about 70 employers in the initial pool who were interested. There is a process where the NRA compares their standards with the [restaurant’s]. We’re encouraging employers across the state to get certified and the expectation is that the program will grow quickly.

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