Tahoe Chamber Corner: Workforce training a win-win (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Chamber Corner: Workforce training a win-win (opinion)

Steve Teshara
Chamber Corner

Steve Teshara

Tahoe Chamber recognizes that the opportunity to help local employees improve their job skills goes hand in hand with the importance of workforce training and development for local employers. This was reaffirmed in our recent member survey when more than 90 percent responded: "It's important for the Tahoe Chamber to be a catalyst for workforce training, business growth and strengthening the local economy."

That is a key reason we're pleased to be working with the ADVANCE network and career center at Lake Tahoe Community College as a partner in their workforce training and development programs. Our role is to help make employers aware and facilitate their involvement in developing the training curriculum and incentivizing their employees to participate.

The initial ADVANCE focus continues to be on culinary training. Many of our local restaurants struggle to find enough cooks, chefs and others with the kitchen skills essential to their success and sustainability. To address the need for workers to improve their expertise while at the same time maintaining their jobs, ADVANCE created culinary "boot camps."

These are typically 40-hour concentrated trainings that, when successfully completed, result in a win-win outcome for employee and employers. Several local employers have paid for their employees to attend the boot camps and increased their wages in recognition of their new higher level of skill. We enthusiastically support this level of engagement.

As a partner, Tahoe Chamber is actively supporting the college (LTCC) and ADVANCE in their goal to establish a Tahoe Culinary Academy. The college recently secured a $500,000 grant from the California Apprenticeship Initiative (CAI) that will fund and provide the foundation for a registered pre-apprenticeship program aligned with American Culinary Foundation (ACF) standards by building on the foundations already built through the ADVANCE network.

Their next goal will be a full apprenticeship program. The Academy will be an important complement to LTCC's Culinary Arts Program, which offers an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts.

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The Tahoe Culinary Academy model will offer four tiers or "portals of access" to culinary workforce development and career pathways including:

40 hour Culinary Boot Camps (existing).

Existing LTCC Culinary Work Experience enhanced to strengthen culinary on-the-job training aligned with ACF education standards.

The new pre-apprenticeship program based on the emerging ACF pre-apprenticeship certification framework, developed using CAI funding.

A registered apprenticeship program in Culinary Arts based on ACF on-the-job and related training and instruction based on industry standards (in year two of the project).

Vital in development of the Academy is strong employer participation. This month, Tahoe Chamber has organized the first meeting of human resource directors from a variety of businesses with restaurants and food and beverage operations.

Their opportunity is to ensure all Academy programs are designed to meet the needs of local culinary employers. This will be an on-going process and the chamber offers other interested culinary operators the chance to have a seat at the table.

Emerging workforce development programs and training at LTCC and ADVANCE will include the fields of hospitality and customer service. These educational programs build on LTCC's existing commitment to workforce education and development.

An excellent example is the LTCC Fire Academy, offered through partnerships with the Lake Valley Fire Protection District, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue, Eastern Alpine County Fire Rescue, and Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. The LTCC Fire Academy is recognized as an Accredited Regional Training Program by the California State Fire Marshall and the State Board of Fire Services.

Hear the compelling testimonial from graduate Nick Aguilar under Fire Academy on the ltcc.edu website. Raised in South Lake Tahoe, Aguilar is now employed by El Dorado County Fire.

New Chamber Online Customer Service Training

Excellent customer service is fundamental to the success of our businesses, as well as the success of Lake Tahoe as a premier, year-round destination. With the expanse of online retail, challenging weather patterns, and other destinations competing for travelers, businesses in Tahoe have increased competition. Exceptional customer service is an intangible component, and can be the deciding factor of why a customer may prefer one business over another.

When, according to Forbes, 85 percent of buyers are willing to pay more for better service while only 1 percent of customers feel that businesses consistently meet their needs, high quality customer service will set your business – and our destination – apart. Cornell Hospitality presented a report from PKF Hospitality Research in 2012. The report found that service plays a far greater role than price and location in the guest-purchase decision.

For many businesses, customer service training can be difficult to execute in a seasonal business environment with high staff turnover — especially with limited access to affordable and accessible options. Realizing the importance of providing outstanding customer experiences as well as the need for accessible training options, Tahoe Chamber is pleased to announce the new online 5 Star Customer Service training program is now available on TahoeChamber.org to all interested.

Employees will participate in a 45-minute online training and will receive a certificate upon completion. The cost of the program is $15 for chamber members and $25 for non-chamber members. We also offer multiple-employee packages at discounted rates. For more information and to register visit TahoeChamber.org.

Steve Teshara serves as CEO of the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber).