January 22, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Spokane Community College
Robert Lombardi: Curb-side To Go, Food Trucks, Personal Catering, Family Farming, Farmers Markets. The meeting and convention market is expected to see an increase by 2022.
Robert Lombardi: Personal Communication Skills, Vocational Math, Food Science
Robert Lombardi: Look for employment in Private Clubs, Supermarket Baking, Resorts, Casinos
Edmonds Community College
EDCC Culinary Arts Program
Stacey Schwartz: I believe restaurant workers will need more cross-training in order to be valuable in this job market. With reduced staff in restaurants, it's more important than ever to be versatile and diverse in skills. For example, someone who can cook, do pastries, and work front of the house would be a real asset. Being open to learning new skills having to do with the changing market such as home delivery and meal kits, as well as personal chef services.
Stacey Schwartz: If a student needs to take a gap year, a good way to spend it would be immersing themselves in culinary literature and information, familiarizing themselves with the basics, eating diverse foods, and exploring unique ingredients. This would be a wonderful way to start!
Stacey Schwartz: I tell graduates that when you begin your career you should decide where you want to be working or what you want to be doing in five years from then and work backward. How will you get there? If you want to be a fine-dining chef, you should start by interning at a fine dining restaurant and try to get hired. Aim high!
McClaskey Culinary Institute
R. Earl Frederick: Yes, there will be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates. I believe that our current students will be vastly equipped to deal with the hospitality industry changes. Before the pandemic happened, we were already teaching students how to be flexible (learning to do as many tasks as possible in your environment). We also encourage them to look "outside of the box" when it comes to careers in the hospitality industry. We emphasize to our students to look for a career rather than a job. Places like business dining facilities, senior living facilities, specialty markets, and casinos provide opportunities for career mobility and give their employees quality of life. It will be necessary for our graduates to look beyond restaurants to have a thriving hospitality industry career.
R. Earl Frederick: Graduates entering the workforce need to have the ability to multitask, communicate well, think critically in high-pressure situations, and be reliable. For years, the margins for restaurants and most food service establishments have been skinny. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that the most successful businesses have pivoted and learned to adapt to thrive. This same attitude is what we instill in our students so that they can be successful.
R. Earl Frederick: Having a ServSafe Food Handler or ServSafe Manager Certification stands out to me when hiring. This national certification shows me that the candidate has a thorough knowledge of food safety and food preparation. ACF (American Culinary Federation) Certification also stands out, as this shows me that the candidate is serious about becoming a professional in the hospitality industry. Lastly, any hands-on experience stands out. This includes actual job experience, volunteering, staging (unpaid internship), work-study, community involvement, externship, etc. The more active the candidate is, the better chance of landing the job.
McClaskey Culinary Institute
Aaron Guerra: Handheld ordering devices and no-touch service models; amplified ServSafe/HACCP best practices; to go and pick up for higher-end restaurants; the need for culinary employees to have better hard and soft skills, specifically critical thinking and rapid response to needs; an uptick in sustainable packaging that is viable and more affordable; outside alcohol sales even though Oregon has not yet approved the practice.
Aaron Guerra: ServSafe 5 year certification as a student; basics of any quality student: good attendance, substantial grades, evidence of incorporating and demonstrating hard skills like plating and organization as well as soft skills like the ability to cost recipes correctly, produce accurate production sheet, and execute events; portfolios and management project binder that illustrate previous skills (Our students must provide a portfolio at the end of the program with their 120-hour externship paperwork and develop a small business plan/Restaurant management project that includes menu, full costing including q factor and budgeted yield percentage, profit and loss sheets, equipment depreciation, dining area and kitchen floor plans, business prospectus including demographics, marketing, and specified segmentation.
Aaron Guerra: Before covid, it was limitless. I had one student go to the Grand Lodge at Glacier National Park in Montana. She was offered a job but returned to the PNW and landed as Assistant Kitchen Manager at Pok Pok restaurants. I had another do her externship at CNM Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico's entrepreneurial Food Truck program. She is currently working her previous job as a police dispatcher and prepping her food truck. The opening date is not yet set. Here locally, especially the new waterfront in Vancouver and the greater Portland area. One student is working in a restaurant in Texas. I have a student at Twigs, C'est La Vie, Amaro's Table, Rally's Pizza, and one that was at Renata's.
During covid, it has been more challenging. Some are still working. One is at Intel, the ones at Rally, C'est La Vie and Twigs are still working, but some are being extra cautious until this pandemic breaks.
Patti Stobaugh: Being humble and willing to learn will take you far in your career, not just in the beginning. If you have the desire to open your own food service business, go to work for a business that has a great reputation. That will give you the opportunity to learn so much.
Patti Stobaugh: Convenience services will continue to grow in importance, i.e., delivery, curbside service, gift service, small caterings for events. Social media has changed so much in the last 3-5 years that I would imagine the social media changes will be huge.
Patti Stobaugh: Dependent upon location - large city (higher) compared to rural (lower), plus what "extra" does the employee bring to the table? Employees will advance much further with a willing and positive attitude. Our businesses hire based on attitude and train for skill.
University of New Mexico - Taos
Department of Culinary Arts
Karla Nardi: Of course, the latest trends are to amp up the take out and delivery mode for restaurants in the current situation. Ordering on-line is great for both customers and restaurants. Restaurant operations that do not have a take out or delivery mode (or both ) will find it challenging to stay in business with the limited number of tables they are allowed. Take out containers, therefore, will become an important statement.
I think more thought will be put into boxes so that the food quality does not deteriorate. Dressing up the take out containers will serve as an advertising tool, as well. Outdoor dining has been incredibly helpful but will not help during the colder months. Paying more attention to outdoor seating areas, I believe, will continue even after the pandemic passes.
Another area that we could see an increase in demand is the field of Personal Chefs. As families struggle with rearranging their time, having a personal chef do the shopping, and cooking could become very attractive.
Karla Nardi: All technology is essential to the restaurant industry. In the next 3-5 years, the programs that assist with cost controls will be crucial. Changes that are happening now will be affecting us for years to come, so keeping your eye on the bottom line will be even more critical if you want to survive and succeed.
Karla Nardi: Even with the pandemic, we still have people calling us for students to work. The restaurant industry is evolving as we speak, and we, as educators, must keep one step ahead. The demand for graduates will increase, and students with specialization in different culinary fields will be in order.
Reynolds Community College
The Kitchens at Reynolds
Dave Quisenberry: Yes! I think the whole planet, as well as the hospitality industry, will have a lasting impact. As the industry struggles to cope and redefine itself, we are forced to embrace some fundamental principals. The reliance on building partnerships and networking is now more important than ever before. This will help those in the labor pool match skill sets with the need in industry.
COVID-19 has also been disruptive in the traditional foodservice model. No longer can we assume that viable business models are "dine-in" consumer-based primarily. As we practice more and more social distancing, we need to incorporate food outlets such as "to-go" and home meal replacement in existing models. These options will require specific operational guidelines and technical support to achieve success safely and efficiently. These trends have already started being addressed in educational content to better prepare graduates upon entry into the job market.
Dave Quisenberry: While COVID-19 has most of the industry being restricted, one way or another, some sectors have been less affected. Healthcare and Corporate entities have maintained consistent; however, diminished labor needs. Graduates will be forced to consider options such as relocation and redirection of career pathways in the post-pandemic environment. That said, we have seen an unfortunate acceleration of business failures due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The post-pandemic environment will undoubtedly provide opportunities to fill voids in local markets as well as emerging markets, such as home meal replacement, etc. The need for trained professionals will have a much greater demand for emphasis on an understanding of total operational knowledge.
Dave Quisenberry: As we deal with the impact of COVID-19 in our industry, we are being forced to rely on technology to communicate with each other, as well as our potential customers. Business models that have seen some success in maintaining market share have relied on new and existing web platforms to bring products and services to the market. The demand for knowledge in web design and virtual marketing will increasingly be a strong asset in any candidate's skill set.