The Delaware Department of Labor started the state’s first Registered Apprenticeship Program for culinary professionals May 29 at Bluecoast Seafood Grill & Raw Bar in Rehoboth Beach. The program, hosted by Secretary of Labor Cerron Cade, officially launched during a gathering with food and drinks prepared by the eight cook apprentices.
This pilot program, developed by the Delaware Restaurant Association and SoDel Concepts, is set to train cooks in the restaurant industry; it features on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
A registered apprenticeship is a tuition-free course for those who attend a local vocational-technical school. It is also a paid job. The apprentices attend 144 hours of instruction every year.
The launch event began with Carrie Leishman, president of the DRA, welcoming Cade and members of SoDel Concepts, as well as the apprentices, before discussing the program. “We are going to modernize apprenticeship,” Leishman said. “It won’t be done anywhere else in the country as it is here in Delaware.”
“We have eight students for a two-year program,” said Ronnie Burkle, corporate chef of SoDel Concepts.
Cade mentioned the benefits of having apprenticeship programs. “Industries with apprenticeship have lower turnover and better pay,” he said. “If we can help build up an apprenticeship, we are not only helping the business, but the individuals as well.”
Also in attendance was Chef Ed Hennessy, chair of the DRA and training instructor for the Delaware Cook Apprenticeship Program. “As a longtime educator, I’m thrilled,” Hennessy said. “I was an apprentice once, so I am very excited.”
The event concluded with Scott Kammerer, president of SoDel Concepts, introducing Keith Sivals, registered apprentice, to give a speech on what this program means to him.
“I grew up always asking my mom about the different spices she used,” Sivals said. “I knew I wanted to cook. But, after I lost my grandmother, I kind of gave up on cooking.” Flustered, Sivals gained confidence from the crowd to continue. “I got in trouble and went to jail, but I’m thankful that it was me and not my younger siblings so they could learn from me.” After a round of applause from the crowd, Sivals concluded, “I’m glad SoDel didn’t give up on me when I gave up on myself.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the second photo caption. The person at left is Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach.