by Stacy Dunn
The Tourism Industry Association of PEI (TIAPEI) provides programs and projects that benefit the entire industry, specifically human resources.
Industry HR Coordinator Alex MacKenzie does presentations to students across PEI promoting careers in tourism and culinary, coordinates professional development programs, and facilitates emerit training.
TIAPEI, in partnership with Holland College and SkillsPEI, also delivers Entry Level Cook Training, which was introduced a few years ago to address industry’s shortage of entry level cooks.
“It’s basic training for the professional kitchen,” he says. “On PEI, we are facing an unprecedented labour shortage in kitchens. We were in an awkward position when the pandemic hit. We went from not having enough staff to not being able to give our staff enough hours to work as the seating capacity of the restaurants shrunk.”
The Entry Level Cook Training program is a partnership between TIAPEI, Holland College and SkillsPEI. The initial request for the program came from industry in 2017 when restaurant owners and managers began to see the shortage in kitchen staff.
“Restaurants look for entry-level cooks and they needed people right away, so the Entry Level Cook Training program was set up to give students quick access to jobs in the kitchen.”
Training focuses on fundamental cooking skills, not the advanced techniques taught in culinary school. Students who complete the program earn the following certifications:
- Food Safety
- First Aid
- PEI Best Service Excellence
For the 2021-22 program, TIAPEI plans to hold three 12-week cohorts and take a total of 60 students. The first 20 students began their training at Peakes Quay in Charlottetown in October 2021. From March to May 2022, there will be one cohort in Charlottetown and one in Summerside, each accepting 20 students.
“A four-week internship is part of the program. Students get hands-on experience in the industry, and we hope that students stick with their internship provider after the program is complete.”
In the final two weeks, students go back to the classroom and the instructors answer any questions they may have about their internships.
Chef Billy Shields from the Row House, the 2020 PEI Burger Love winner, and Samantha Miller, Head Chef at Peakes Quay are the program’s instructors. Besides basic knife skills, they teach the following:
- Kitchen culture and safety – how to be respectful, productive, and accountable in the workplace
- Proper receiving and storage of product
- Front-of-house and back-of-house relationship management
- Food service principles – order service, setting up your station, portion control, and plating
- Cold kitchen/hot kitchen application
- Basic soup preparation and production
- Basic bread baking and dessert making
New to the 2021-2022 program, Entry Level Cook Training also accepts restaurant workers such as dishwashers, kitchen helpers, and servers who wish to upgrade their skills to become a cook. Applicants must be Canadian citizens or Permanent Residents, unemployed or underemployed (working less than 25 hours a week).
“By the end of the program, participants will have certificates in basic entry level cooking. The certificate is a springboard for continual training and workforce development.”
The program is funded by the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture through the Canada-PEI labour market agreements.