KRA Monthly Spotlight!

This month’s Spotlight! is the last of a three-part series highlighting an industry vital to the American economy…Hospitality, and the role that KRA programs play in maximizing job development and placement opportunities presented by a significant industry sub-group…the Restaurant sector. To re-cap, 7 years ago, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reported that the industry presented high-growth job opportunities, and was projected to add a substantial number of new jobs to the economy. However, the 2008-2009 recession hit the Restaurant sector very hard.  When the economy nose-dived, consumer discretionary spending plummeted, and with less money, people ate out less often.

At the end of 2010, when consumers started to regain confidence in the economy, they began to eat out more, and the Restaurant sector began to experience the growth that DOL had projected. KRA programs across the county are taking full advantage of these growth projections for the benefit of both their jobseeker- and employer-customers, and in so doing, are offering solutions that address all six of the “Critical Workforce Challenges” confronting the industry, also cited in the DOL report.

Challenges #1 through #4…Image, Recruitment, Retention, and Language Skills…were addressed in the two previous Spotlight! articles, and highlighted the KRA service-delivery system that ameliorates these barriers to employment when working with businesses to develop jobs, and when placing qualified jobseekers in those jobs.  This issue focuses on the two remaining challenges and KRA solutions.

Challenge #5 – Employability/Soft Skills:  Employers have difficulty finding workers who possess basic “soft skills,” which are often a prerequisite for success in a customer service-oriented field.  Soft skills, as part of a worker’s employability profile, relate to a person’s EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) that characterizes relationships with other people, and complements “hard skills” (part of a person’s IQ), which comprise the occupational requirements of a job.  KRA Solution #5:  In addition to occupational-skills training, KRA includes soft-skills development in its work-preparation curriculum, especially for those jobseeker-customers being referred to jobs that rely heavily on a range of soft-skill abilities.  KRA recognizes that effective soft skills enhance work-place interactions, job performance, and career prospects. Therefore, soft-skills development is heavily infused in work-preparation activities for customers, as well as the company’s own staff development and training programs.  Types of soft-skill proficiencies include communication/language skills, conflict resolution/negotiation, friendliness, optimism, personal effectiveness/habits, problem solving, strategic thinking, and team building, to name a few.

Challenge #6 – Consistent Training Models/Skills Certifications:  The Hospitality/Restaurant industry, as a whole, lacks consistency and portability in their training models and skill certifications. Many employers run their own internal training programs, which makes it difficult to monitor the content and skills acquired.  KRA Solution #6:  There is little KRA can do to address the challenge that “employers run their own internal training programs”, except to encourage jobseekers to take advantage of employer-offered training opportunities that will help them advance in their current, and possibly future, positions.  However, there is something KRA is doing, in selected programs, to provide training that offers skill certification and portability.

For example, KRA’s Job Skills Training Directly Related to Employment Program in Camden, New Jersey, has partnered with Gloucester County College to offer the nationally recognized Serv/Safe Food Safety Training Program, a 16-hour certification course wherein customers attend 8 hours of classroom instruction and then dedicate 8 hours to at-home, self-directed study with the aid of a guide book. Course curriculum covers many topics including Maintaining a Safe and Healthy Food-Service Environment, Protecting Against Food-Borne Illnesses, and Pest Control, to name a few. At the end of the training, graduates are eligible to take the Serv/Safe Certification Examination.

Also, KRA/Camden is partnered with the American Hotel and Lodging Association to offer two additional training/certification programs.  Guest Services training provides soft-skills development through modules on Authenticity, Intuition, Empathy, Being a Guest Hero, Delight, Follow Through, and Initiative; emphasizes the criticality of these skills to the provision of quality guest services in any establishment; and stresses how these skills impact service delivery in a lasting and positive manner.  Skills Task and Results Training (START), offered to Out-of-School Youth under the authority of the Workforce Investment Act, is a 12-week program that prepares young customers for many service areas within the Hospitality Industry through Front Office, Reservations, Room Attendant, Laundry, Maintenance, Banquet Setup, and Restaurant Servers training.  START includes classroom instruction, homework, progressive quizzes, and a final certifying exam.

Both Guest Services and START certifications are recognized by restaurants, hotels, and resorts nationwide, which like Serv/Safe Food Safety Training, provide valuable leverage in the labor market for KRA/Camden jobseeker-customers.  When asked to comment specifically on the growth potential of the Restaurant sector, Anita Davis, KRA Program Manager, reported “Through On-the-Job Training and other State hiring initiatives, KRA/Camden provides human resources services for many area food-service businesses, including the Camden Riversharks Stadium Concession Stand operation, as well as Golden Corral, Chipotle, Sonic, Bobby’s Burger Palace, and Jersey Italian Hot Dogg House restaurants.  These partnerships are critical to the success of both our jobseeker- and employer-customers who participate in KRA/Camden’s expansive workforce development program.”