Serving up food and hospitality
By Lyndi-Colleen Morgan
Hands-on learning at St. Clair College is giving students in the culinary and hospitality management programs opportunities in a field that is in high demand.
Skilled trades jobs are defined as specialized jobs an individual is trained to do and are divided into four trade sectors: construction, transportation, manufacturing and services. Culinary and hospitality fall under the services sector.
Marc Johnston is coordinator of the culinary management program and chef at the student run restaurant Eatery101. He said the experience the students have gained through this form of learning have put them in high demand by employers.
“From the demand of the community at large we are recognized as a key source of employees for the food service industry,” said Johnston. “From food safety to front of the house to line experience, from sauces and knife skills, we cover all the bases very well.”
Johnston said the program is always at capacity, which was changed from 60 to 100 students to accommodate the need. Students are given the opportunity to learn a variety of skills from serving to ice sculpting, as well as the hands-on experience they receive while working in Eatery101. The eatery was opened three years ago to help the success of the hands-on learning.
“This was a crucial piece of the pie which we didn’t have since the beginning of the program… all the things that come with a real life restaurant,” said Johnston. “It was decided by the employers that what was missing was the hands-on experience…nothing replaces the stress.”
This restaurant is student-run with first years working as servers and second years in the kitchen.
“Hands-on learning is a lot different than just reading it in a book,” said 19-year-old Taylor Heath, a second year student in the culinary program. “With hands-on you actually get to experience it… with serving for example, I wouldn’t just know how to do it out of a book.”
Students in the hospitality management program also get to practice their skills at Eatery101 as well as at the St. Clair College’s Centre for the Arts.
“They do a wonderful job of teaching you how to use certain tools, what they are and how you are going to use them, and when you do go out into the workforce you already have a leg up on that,” said Victoria Long, 25, a first year student in the hospitality management program. She said taking the program adds to the experience she has. “This is something employers are looking for.”
According to a prediction made by the Conference Board of Canada, employers will be looking for more than one million skilled workers in all sectors in the next three years as close to half of the workforce becomes eligible to retire.
Ken Reynolds is a professor and coordinator of the hospitality management program at St. Clair College. He has been with the program for 24 years and has watched the change and need for those in the hospitality and culinary management programs.
Reynolds also said although entry level positions for these careers can start at minimum wage, there is room for advancement with wages moving up to $20 to $25 an hour.
“One of the things I tell my students is people are going to have to eat, that is not going to change,” said Reynolds, adding the demand for students in this field with hands-on learning would be met. “The future is good.”