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The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced that Pennsylvania is the 48th state to join ProStart, a two-year program providing high school students nationwide a platform to discover new interests and talents, while opening doors to fulfilling and sustained careers in the foodservice sector. From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-life experience opportunities and builds practical skills.
“ProStart has experienced phenomenal, consistent growth over the past several years. With the addition of Pennsylvania, 48 states are now part of the ProStart program — an incredible testament to the strength of the program and our ProStart educators,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for NRAEF. “Our research has shown that 81 percent of students who complete the program are still studying and/or working in the industry five years later.”
Students who have completed the requirements of the ProStart program are awarded an industry-recognized certificate, the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement. To earn the certificate, students pass two national exams, demonstrate a mastery of foundational skills, and work 400 mentored hours. Students who receive the certificate are eligible for NRAEF scholarship opportunities and course credits at more than 75 of the country’s leading hospitality and culinary arts colleges and universities.
“We understand the value and importance of programs like ProStart in preparing students for careers in the restaurant industry and are thrilled to become the latest state to implement the curriculum,” says John Doulgeris, chief operating officer of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association. “We look forward to partnering with the NRAEF and supporting its mission to ensure the future of the restaurant industry has a highly-trained and professional talent pool.”
Several Pennsylvania schools will begin to offer ProStart curriculum to its students starting in the 2013-2014 school year, including Monroe Career & Technical Institute in Bartonsville, Crawford County Career Technical Center in Meadville, Fayette County Career & Technology Institute in Uniontown, and Lebanon County Career & Technology Center in Lebanon.
ProStart students also have the opportunity to compete at the national level at the National ProStart Invitational, a high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts. This year, more than 900 attendees, including industry and academic leaders, NRAEF board members, state restaurant association representatives, ProStart educators, friends, and family members cheered on student competitors from across the U.S.
Total restaurant and foodservice employment is projected to grow by 11 percent over the next 10 years, and the NRAEF aims to ensure the development of a highly trained and professional talent pool through scholarships and educational programs such as ProStart. With national and local support from industry members, educators, the NRAEF, and state restaurant associations, ProStart is taught in more than 1,900 schools.