|The Lake Tahoe Adult Education Consortium is made up of Alpine County Unified School District, Lake Tahoe Community College District and Lake Tahoe Unified School District.|
How could the consortium (now branded as Advance) help local culinary industry partners rapidly fill vacancies in critical staffing positions and provide interested career seekers with an immediate "on-ramp" to a higher wage position? In addition, we needed to make sure we identified and delivered the skill training that was valued by the industry and create a program that was deliverable in multiple models. Ensuring that there was a pay-off for completers as well as employers was also a critical design principle.
Industry partners were recruited to help us identify the 4-5 foundation skills they wanted in new cooks. After the survey, design and vetting process, the key areas were sanitation/safety, terminology, knife skills and cooking/baking basics. Once the skills were identified, we worked with the same partners to establish a 40-hour, non-credit boot camp deliverable in two models: one over a five-week period and the other as a five-day intensive course. This allowed for more flexibility in scheduling for potential participants as well as managing our teaching facilities. Early and continued engagement with local restaurants (at the executive chef and general manager level) was critical to ensuring meaningful impact for participants.
Local chefs joined as guest presenters and assisted in the final evaluation of presentations. Twenty-three of the 24 available slots were filled; 60% referred by partners, 30% from new career interest and 10% referred by local WIOA partners. Both models were implemented though the five-day intensive course had better retention and completion rates (90% versus 45% for the longer course). Several participants were paid by an employer to attend and saw wage increases upon completion. One was hired upon completion, and four enrolled in credit culinary classes at LTCC. Follow up feedback from partners validated the skills and allowed for a few tweaks to the curriculum. Future plans will see multiple offerings including a full Spanish version.
As mentioned above, the completion rate, especially for the five-day intensive, was significant as was the percentage of completers entering a credit culinary course at the college. The request to expand offerings for the spring shoulder season from two to as many as five, speaks to the need and success of the first round. We will continue to track job placement, enrollment at LTCC, wage increases and industry need to provide more meaningful data over time. In addition, the success of the culinary boot camp has led to the creation of a similar offering in guest services for a number of local industry partners, especially our lodging association members.