Empowerment Through Opportunity Center Stage During Inaugural Hospitality Pathways Conference

Conference shows industry-wide work to provide job skills and advancement pathways for people from all backgrounds. View conference photos and video here.

Washington, DC – August 16, 2023 The opportunities for success available to people from all backgrounds was the focal point of last week’s inaugural National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) Hospitality Pathways Conference. More than 150 workforce development partners and program participants gathered in Washington, D.C., and discussed how to strengthen restaurant and hospitality career opportunities, expand the reach of those opportunities to marginalized and at-risk populations, and how restaurant and hospitality jobs can reduce recidivism.

A cross-section of government officials from the Departments of Labor, Commerce, and Education, as well as industry employers, state restaurant associations, community-based organizations, and local correction departments participated in workshops and simulations designed to increase awareness of non-traditional pathways into the restaurant and hospitality industry. The conference highlighted three of the NRAEF’s most successful workforce programs: Apprenticeship, Restaurant Ready, and Hospitality Opportunities for People (Re)Entering Society (HOPES).

Photo of Clarissa Haglid, HOPES, Food Bank of Delaware to Apprenticeship.“I got my dignity back. I got to live up to my potential. I got to hear my son be proud of me, and I haven’t heard that in a long time. I owe that to HOPES, and I owe it to me. I’ve gotten a lot back and I plan to give back a lot, if not more,” said Clarissa Haglid, who was part of the NRAEF’s HOPES program at the Food Bank of Delaware and recently transitioned into an industry apprenticeship program at Embassy Suites in Newark, Delaware. Haglid was joined by several other NRAEF program participants for a keynote panel discussion, where they shared how these workforce programs have changed the trajectory of their professional and personal lives.

HOPES facilitates work-readiness and restaurant industry-specific training and employment through its network of state Departments of Correction, state restaurant associations, community-based organizations, and employer partners. Along with Restaurant Ready and  Department of Labor-supported hospitality registered apprenticeship programs, HOPES is part of the NRAEF’s core workforce development programming aimed at providing job training and career advancement opportunities in the industry.

“We have seen some transformative experiences for individuals, including ‘second chance’ hires who have an opportunity to move into the workforce, learn, obtain their industry certifications, and get to work,” said Chef Frankie (Shannon Curtis), a trainer through the NRAEF’s apprenticeship program in Prince George’s County, Maryland. “We want to change lives. For me, that means working with people, knowing we’re giving an opportunity that they may not have otherwise.” 

As the industry looks to ensure the accessibility of training and career pathways to people with disabilities and other barriered populations, the Hospitality Pathways Conference also featured The Access to Opportunity Workforce Development Summit. The Summit gathered federal officials, private foundations, sector leaders, and disability advocates for a focused discussion on common barriers, promising practices, and potential partnerships to effect change. The NRAEF’s Restaurant Ready program is at the helm of industry training accessibility through its “Hospitality Pathways” project, which focuses on Universal Design and is funded in part by a Signature Employment Grant  from Kessler Foundation.

“The restaurant and hospitality industry offers limitless opportunity. From front of house and back of house to marketing, technology, and food science, our industry has something for everyone,” said NRAEF president Rob Gifford. “Thanks to the daily work of our program stakeholders, we’re well positioned to ensure more people than ever can bring their unique skills to the table and reap the benefits of our industry.”

The NRAEF’s purpose-driven mission is to empower people from all backgrounds with the training and education they need to ensure a better future through employment and advancement in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Learn more about its programmatic impact, including HOPES, Restaurant Ready, and Apprenticeship programs at the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC), in its 2022 Impact Report 

About The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) 

As the supporting philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the NRAEF’s charitable mission includes enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development, and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower, and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce.NRAEF programs include: ProStart® a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready/HOPES – Partnering with community based organizations to provide people with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, visitChooseRestaurants.org. Click here for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s 2022 Annual Impact Report.


Hannah Oliver

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