Tamwood Careers College will be adding a new program in the spring semester, and it could just be the answer to some Whistler restaurants' prayers.
The Foundations of Food and Beverage course will give students hands-on experience in all aspects of the food industry, as well as a number of certifications. For local businesses, it will provide a crop of trained employees ready to enter the workforce and capable of staying longer thanks to student work permits.
"The biggest thing most restaurants struggle with is retention," said Amy Huddle, president of the Restaurant Association of Whistler (RAW). "In Vancouver, that might be because of stress, hours, wages, benefits, all that other stuff; I think in Whistler, what's more prominent is the work visas. We spend a lot of time, energy and money training someone we get to keep for a year, or maybe two... We're continually training and using resources to bring in new employees. That's why this Tamwood school program sounds really interesting."
This summer's limit to Australia's working holiday visa program — allowing just one per citizen as opposed to allowing unlimited renewals before turning 30 — has hampered an already struggling labour market for the restaurant industry. But this new Tamwood course will provide an opportunity for those already working in the local food industry to stay and study, while attracting new cuisine-curious travellers to the village as well.
"It's not just a course on how to become a server," said Shelley Quinn, campus manager of Tamwood Whistler. "We do a month of in-kitchen training, a month of service training, a segment on wine, beer and spirits. They're learning about all aspects of the industry. It could lead ultimately to people who want to work in management, or be chefs, or work in high-end restaurants as servers. It could lead to all sorts of opportunities."
Foundations of Food and Beverage will be a 48-week program, with 24 weeks studying in the classroom and a 24-week work placement program. The first half of the program will study six different modules over a four-week period. Students will be eligible to work part-time during that period, to help pay for school as well as gain experience.
All international students will be allowed to work while studying here, and the program is also open to domestic students.
This unique course received approval by Private Training Institutions Branch in late November, so Tamwood will have the next six months to market the course and figure out which kitchens and restaurants can host the practical lessons outside the classroom. Tamwood has reached out to RAW about finding potential locations for placements and lessons.
"(This course) could definitely evolve into some great stuff," said Kevin Wallace, owner of the local Earl's location.
"I've already told Shelley we would take some people at Earl's. Casper (Richters) at The Keg has been working closely with her, helping out. A lot of kitchens don't get used during the day so somebody that's not open for lunch, they could get people into their kitchens a lot easier than I can."
The course is expected to begin June 18, 2018 and tuition costs have yet to be finalized. Quinn said her realistic expectation for the first semester is a class of about 15 students.
"I think it's great that Shelley is out there doing this work and that she's excited and passionate about it, and I can't wait to see how much we can work together and grow this whole program," said Wallace.
Along with a diploma, graduates of the program will gain nine certifications from industry-relevant courses, including: WorldHost, Food Safe, American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute, Wine and Spirit Association, Serving It Right and more.