HOLYOKE — Holyoke Community College (HCC) is using a $190,000 grant from the state’s Workforce Competitive Trust Fund to train unemployed and underemployed people for new jobs in the culinary and hospitality industry.
The program is free to participants, who must commit to attend classes every day for nine weeks, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The course teaches them fundamental culinary skills and exposes them to a wide variety of careers in hospitality, including hotel operations.
“It’s a hands-on opportunity to try out a lot of things and find out what their interests and aptitudes are,” said Kermit Dunkelberg, HCC’s assistant vice president of Adult Basic Education and Workforce Development. “Another key part of the program is that, when it ends, they have to let us help them find a job.”
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced the grant earlier this year. Commonwealth Corp., a quasi-public state agency that fosters partnerships between industry, education, and workforce organizations, administers the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund.
Students graduate from the program with four key credentials: ServSafe and OSHA-10 certifications, which show they have been trained in safe food handling and workplace safety; TIPS certification, which allows them to serve alcohol; and a National Career Readiness certification, which demonstrates they possess fundamental workplace skills.
The first cohort of students started in October and will celebrate their graduation today, Dec. 15, as they prepare and serve a noontime meal for family and friends at Food 101 Bar & Bistro in South Hadley. The restaurant is owned by chef Alan Anischik, who serves as the main instructor for the program.
Most of the classes meet at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke. Last week, in preparation for the graduation celebration, the class met at Food 101.
In addition to cooking techniques, the program offers lessons in customer-service etiquette, workplace communication, conflict resolution, product purchasing and receiving, and food and wine pairing.
During the course, students had the opportunity to attend a job seminar with representatives from MGM Resorts to learn about future employment opportunities at the casino now under construction in Springfield. They also participated in speed interviews with local employers from the restaurant and hotel industry.
The next program cohort begins March 23. Anyone interested should contact Milissa Daniels at (413) 552-2042.