Restaurant cooks will now have an opportunity to advance their careers through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's new apprenticeship program.

Armed with a grant for $450,000 from the Lumina Foundation, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has introduced a new program that will teach adults the basic skills necessary to become professional cooks, create pathways to degrees and credentials, and open industry opportunities.

The Registered Cook Apprenticeship Program is part of Lumina’s All Learning Counts initiative, and is geared toward helping people achieve their career goals as well as continuing the foodservice industry’s commitment to advancing diversity inclusion. Out of all cooks working in the restaurant industry, 41 percent are women, 34 percent are Hispanic, and 17 percent are African-American, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The cook apprenticeship program is an expansion of the Foundation’s restaurant management apprenticeship program, which assists entry-level employees’ advancement into higher-paying management positions. That program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, debuted in 2016 and currently has more than 1,500 registered apprentices enrolled in it.

John Shortt, the Foundation’s director of program development, said the new cook apprenticeship is the result of multiple industry employers asking the NRAEF to develop another workforce development program that could help ease the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining line cooks. The program, he noted, targets the following individuals:

Shortt added that over a one-year period, the program’s apprentices would be required to learn more than 120 competencies, including cooking, knife skills, food safety and food management. He also said the Foundation expects the Department of Labor to approve the program’s standards and competencies by year-end and the program will begin its official rollout next year.

The NRAEF hopes to have at least 200 registered line-cook apprentices in the program by Dec. 31, 2020.