Several months ago, I was invited to speak to a group of students in the culinary program at Florida Technical College in Kissimmee. I was impressed with the students and their commitment to becoming good cooks. They asked really engaging questions that showed an interest in learning. And I was impressed with the facilities -- the classrooms, kitchens and even a cafe were set up in a strip mall on U.S. 192, a good model for repurposing other ghost malls in the area, perhaps.
Those of you in the restaurant industry know that there is a shortage of restaurant workers, especially cooks and other kitchen personnel. This is a nationwide problem but one that is amplified in an area so reliant on tourism. It's programs like the one at FTC that are helping to keep the supply of qualified workers coming.
The young men and women here don't have an allusion of graduating and becoming the next Top Chef. They understand the vagaries of the job, and they know it requires a lot of hard work. But they also know it's exactly what they want to do.
When I returned recently, one of the students who had attended my talk came up to tell me that he had gotten a job with a new restaurant in downtown Orlando. He was very excited because he had been hired as a prep cook but was quickly promoted to line cook.
He got a good job with a popular restaurant. And the restaurant got someone who has the training to be a good worker.
Take a look at the video above for more insight into the program at Florida Technical College.