Wake Tech, Raleigh restaurant staff as much as handle hospitality labor scarcity

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake Tech is teaming up with a Raleigh restaurant, A Place At The Table, to try to boost hires amid the hospitality labor shortage. 

Andrew Gravens has been in the restaurant industry for more than a decade.

“I love food, I love to eat, so it was pretty easy to fit in,” Gravens said, who is now the executive chef at A Place At The Table in Raleigh.

The restaurant is teaming up with Wake Tech to help revamp the food industry and provide opportunities to students.

“Our industry has just really been hit hard during COVID-19,” Lynn Minges, the president and CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, said.

Many places are experiencing a worker shortage after the pandemic. Employees left and didn’t return.  

“It’s been, I guess, eye-opening as a whole for the industry needing some sort of changes to being more attractive to workers,” Gravens said.

To try and help the shortages, Wake Tech will use A Place at the Table as a hands-on classroom for short-term culinary and baking courses.

The classes will take place when the restaurant’s closed and they’re waiving the fees for the courses for the remainder of the year. This will save students approximately $500.

Wake Tech is also creating a scholarship, A Place at Wake Tech, that students in the program can apply for so they can keep furthering their careers.

“The industry’s suffering, our students have challenges (and) we don’t want there to be any barriers,” Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls said. “We think it’s also going to make a difference because we’ll be producing more people for this great industry that makes us who we are.”

Furthermore, restaurant leaders are working together across the state to create more opportunities like this one.

“It’s a quick ramp up. It’s a way to bring people who have never worked in the industry into a kitchen, to give them a real trial by fire,” Minges said. “They’re also pushing for more competitive wages and benefits, along with other incentives to bring in workers…a lot of irons in the fire working every angle we can to rebuild the workforce.”

Minges also said North Carolina is still down approximately 70,000 jobs – a lot of jobs that places need right now – and even need today.

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