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Practices with Promise Success Story

Submitted By: Frank Gerdeman, Advance-LTAEC

Culinary industry engagement leads to accelerated student outcomes

The Challenge

Advance (the Lake Tahoe Adult Education Consortium) wanted to find a way to 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, the consortium needed to make sure it identified and delivered the skill training that was valued by the industry and created 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.

The Solution

Industry partners were recruited to help the consortium identify the four or five foundational 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, the consortium worked with the same partners to establish a 40-hour, not-for-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 the consortium’s teaching facilities at several locations (the community college and local industry partner location with plans to add evening offerings at the local high school facility). Early and continued engagement with local restaurants (at the executive chef and general manager levels) 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 percent were referred by partners, 30 percent were from new career interest and 10 percent were referred by local WIOA partners. Both models were implemented, though the five-day intensive course had better retention and completion rates (90 percent versus 45 percent 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 several enrolled in credit classes at Lake Tahoe Community College, including four who entered culinary coursework. Follow up feedback from partners validated the skills and led to a few tweaks to the curriculum. Future plans call for multiple offerings, including a full Spanish version of the program.

The Data

As mentioned above, the completion rate, especially for the five-day intensive, was significant as was the percentage of completers entering a credit-level course at the college. The request to expand boot camp 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.

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