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Help Wanted: New program launched to help bolster workforce shortage in Maine's hospitality industry

Hospitality Maine is teaming up with the Department of Labor to strengthen the hotel and restaurant workforce

YARMOUTH, Maine — Many businesses in Maine are suffering from a workforce shortage.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in Maine's hospitality industry.

But now--the trade group Hospitality Maine is teaming up with the Department of Labor to try to change that.

It's launched a new, unique, Apprenticeship Program, with a focus on two tracks--lodging and food service. 

People who sign up to be an apprentice will work, learn new skills and earn a paycheck from an employer, while also receiving workplace-specific classroom instruction.  

Matt Chappell's restaurant, Gather, in Yarmouth has been open for almost seven years.  

The restaurant on Main Street is doing great. People love the food and the charm, but there's one problem that's been getting worse with each year. 

Chappell can't keep enough line cooks in the kitchen.

 "There were days we were running with two few people and it starts to drain your core staff."

Chappell isn't the only one struggling to find help.

"All the restaurants and hotels that have come to the area have overwhelmed the workforce that we have and we haven't kept pace."

It's a problem that Hospitality Maine, an organization that represents Maine hotels and restaurants and Maine's Labor Department are trying to help solve.

Terry Hayes is Hospitality Maine's new director of workforce and education.

"Often times when folks are looking for work they see in job ads experience preferred. And when you apply for an apprentice position we expect you not to have any experience" Hayes says.

Hayes says its new Apprenticeship Program is a homegrown way to bolster the restaurant and hotel workforce in Maine. 

"People can work over the course of a year, take a few classes and at the end of the year have a certificate they can take anywhere in the country...of course we want them to stay here."

Hayes says it's a new model. "So the association is the prime sponsor which means it makes it's easier for our member businesses to do the on the job training and let the association take care of the rest."

"The bulk of this is on the job training and you're getting paid to learn" Chappell says.

Chappell signed up for the program. His restaurant will host it's first apprentice in the next month or two.

"I was ready to jump right in and be apart of the solution rather than complain about it...it gets tiring Chappell laughed. 

Chappell says the program is a long term play, not a short term fix, but it's one worth trying.

 "You have to be okay with the fact that you're not just grooming your own employee you're making a contribution to the industry."

And industry that could benefit from an infusion of local talent.

For more information on the Apprenticeship Program visit HospitalityMaine.com



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