Brinker International, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation logos
WASHINGTON – Brinker International is betting big on an apprenticeship program designed to retain workers in an industry that is challenged to find and retain talent in a tight labor market.

Brinker, parent company of Chili’s Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy, has committed to enroll 250 apprentices into the Hospitality Sector Registered Apprenticeship (HSRA) program developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). The “earn-while-you-learn” initiative will offer foodservice workers additional skills, management training and other opportunities to advance their careers and grow their paychecks.

“The restaurant industry is known for being a stop along the way in most people’s career, but our industry is in jeopardy if we don’t show team members a clear path to long-term growth, so at Brinker we’re leading the way,” said Rick Badgley, senior vice president and chief people officer at Brinker. “Our goal is to prepare our team members for their ‘next’ and by partnering with the NRAEF, we are able to take our current internal apprenticeship program and now provide team members with official industry credentials, which are transferrable. This gives team members a foundation of industry accomplishment for their next step.”

In 2016, the NRAEF and AHLA received a $1.8 million contract from the US Dept. of Labor. NRAEF and AHLA aim to enroll 1,000 apprentices into the program with Brinker’s support. So far, Brinker has made the largest HSRA commitment in the nation, according to NRAEF.

Apprenticeships can benefit the industry through lower turnover costs, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction. Apprenticeship programs also develop a more skilled and competitive workforce. In the HRSA program, apprentices will acquire nationally recognized credentials that can open doors to a variety of management level positions across the restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry.

“This apprenticeship program will provide education and training opportunities to create a more defined career path for the millions of Americans who work in restaurants, foodservice and hospitality,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of the NRAEF. “With support from companies like Brinker, we are working together to build a well-trained workforce that meets the needs of our labor-intensive industry.”