Education Featured

New ideas for downtown careers

// Curtis Hauser
// Curtis Hauser

With Alberta in need of trained hospitality workers, a partnership between the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and NorQuest College might help fill the gap. The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Hospitality Institute is coming soon, and the groups hope it will solve the problem of too few trained workers.

“The institute is going to provide hands-on training for students and also for current employers who want their staff, and potential staff, to develop hands-on leading-edge disciplines,” says Natalie Minckler, executive director of the EOCF.

The sorts of training on offer will include guest services, event delivery, service-industry operations, safety and supervision. Students can also take courses separately if they don’t need all of them or don’t have time to do them all at once.

“They’re short programs,” Minckler adds. “They’re anywhere from 10 to 40 hours for one program, and if you want to take the whole suite of programs, you’ll end with a certificate.”
The partnership came about after the groups started some conversations regarding the new arena, but that’s not where the idea itself came from.

“We have what’s called a workforce advisory council,” Patrick Machacek, Vice President (Transformation) at NorQuest, says. “It consists of members of business and industry right across Edmonton and throughout our stewardship region.

“The workforce advisory group was basically saying that they were having a difficult time finding adequate training for their employees,” he continues. “Because many of their employees are frontline service employees they have a lot of turnover, so they need to provide training in an efficient manner.”

The group felt that if training could be better provided, they would have an easier time keeping employees around longer. Additionally, says Machacek, Patrick LaForge, President and COO of the Edmonton Oilers, wants people to think of hospitality jobs at the forthcoming Rogers Place arena more as careers, with a higher level of professionalism and opportunities for advancement. A program like this could help that happen.

In any case, NorQuest started talking with the EOCF, resulting in this partnership, which will see the EOCF contributing $1.5 million in bursaries, with a portion going towards helping NorQuest build a new kitchen and training facilities for their Centre for Learning in 2017.

“It was an easy decision for our board because both organizations share a strong commitment to youth education in our province,” Minckler says. “So with the new institute, the Oilers Foundation is providing bursaries for students who may want to enrol in the program.”

There will be 100 bursaries of $1000 each on offer to students who need financial assistance. The EOCF also points to the potential to help at-risk youth.

“We have partnered with Inner City High School probably for 10 years,” Minckler says. “Inner City High School provides education for at-risk youth. We’re hoping that those graduates will go on with their education path and perhaps enrol in NorQuest College and get some meaningful employment.”

But of course, Minckler stresses that the Hospitality Institute will be open to anybody interested. Registration is open and classes start in January.

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