Meet your future workforce

Meet your future workforce

By Lyle Hildahl, director of the Washington Restaurant Association Education Foundation

There have been mega reports on the gap between positions needed to fill for the next decade and the qualified people to fill them.

One response is to automate as much as we can. Good strategy. Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t solve the problem. I would agree that we need to automate as much as we can, but we are in the hospitality business, and robots won’t cut it when it comes to providing the feel, emotion or heart of a dining or lodging experience.

Our value of the experience comes from the quality of the people that cooked, cleaned, served and lead through that experience.

Hospitality is eye contact, visual art on the plate, a smile, a feeling that we matter to the employees and management. So, there’s my rub on automating everything; it can’t and won’t happen. A sensible balance is the right approach.

So, what are we going to do about the gap in qualified employees to fill the jobs? Everything we can.

Like a successful restaurant or hotel, you bring teams in to accomplish your goals. The Washington Reataurant Association Education Foundation is working with as many teams as possible through partnerships to prepare the current and future workforce. We partner with high schools, colleges, workforce development councils, DSHS, FareStart, Goodwill and, most importantly, the hospitality industry.

We learn from our experiences right? Many times we learn more from the experiences where things didn’t go so good.

Unfortunately, in the hospitality business, we don’t have a lot of room for our employees to make a mistake when it impacts a guest’s experience. Quality of food, service and atmosphere all weigh in, and it’s the employee – guest interaction that makes a difference.

You all know that. So where am I going with this?

We need a training (apprentice) wage, up to a year, that allows the employer to provide the experience and the employee to get the education so they will both succeed. I always thought the minimum wage was a training wage, and with that minimum wage going up to $12–15 across the state, where is the training wage now?

The Education Foundation will continue to build partnerships and training programs to provide the knowledge side of the equation. Industry will continue providing internships and jobs to provide the experience side of the equation. We need the public and government to provide the necessary push and support for a system that includes a training wage.

We have 37 partner ProStart high schools that provide industry-certified knowledge and education. As we continue to deal with the challenges of increased labor costs, I hope you will continue to support this amazing program by hiring these teens. They are getting the knowledge and experience you desire and expect. Get involved if you can, so you can see for yourself how amazing these young adults are. Teach a class, invite these students to your restaurant or hotel for a tour, hire them for a special event and meet your future workforce.

(Source: Washington Restaurant & Lodging Magazine, October 2015)