As businesses on P.E.I. prepare for another busy tourist season, the Tourism Industry Association of PEI (TIAPEI) is trying to help businesses recruit kitchen staff.
"There has been an issue with having cooks that are available to work. There's a huge need that the culinary side of things is building," said Kevin Mouflier, CEO of TIAPEI.
Part of TIAPEI's effort to recruit more staff includes transforming an established job training program into one focused specifically on culinary skills.
Same program, new focus
TIAPEI has offered the Ready for Work training program on and off for about 20 years. The program teaches job skills to young people, with the aim to prepare them to work in the tourism industry.
In previous years, participants would complete eight weeks of general job readiness training followed by 12 weeks of on-the-job training in a tourism industry job of their choice. This year, all 12 students will look for work in kitchens. The program includes an added two weeks of hands-on training at the Culinary Institute, which started Monday.
Arlene Smith is one of the chefs who will be leading the culinary training. She said students will learn basic skills, and become more comfortable in a kitchen.
"We'll cover professionalism, the ability to have the knife skills, a mise en place, understand workstations, safety, and sanitation," said Smith.
'Foot in the door'
During their eight weeks of general training, the participants learn skills like writing resumes and working as a team.
Participant Chase Aslantogmus said he has learned a number of skills in the first few weeks that will be useful for him.
"Your personal appearance, how to act. Like, say you go up to the employer, not to use slang, to have good body posture, and that kind of stuff," said Aslantogmus.
Organizers hope those skills, coupled with the hands-on experience, will help the students succeed when they enter or re-enter the workforce.
"At least they've gotten their foot in the door. And I think anybody in the kitchen would recognize that they have a little bit more skills than somebody just coming in off the street," said Smith.
Other recruitment efforts
TIAPEI staff hope that by training a crop of young workers, they will help meet the needs of some Island businesses as the tourism season approaches.
The association also has a few other initiatives to try to attract more people to work in kitchens, including giving presentations in high schools and hosting a culinary job fair on March 30.
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