MRLA forms hospitality industry training school

Academy will seek to revitalize Michigan’s restaurant and hotel workforce through upskilling.
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Employees in the hospitality industry, including those who work in hotels and restaurants, can sharpen their skills through 12-week courses offered through the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan. Courtesy iStock

The new Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan will seek to provide restaurant and hotel workers with the skills needed to advance in their careers.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association last month said it formed the Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan (HTIM) to help individuals expand the attributes needed for advanced careers in the hospitality industry through a group of 12-week training and certification programs.

Almost 600,000 people work in the restaurant and lodging industries in Michigan, and in light of the mass exodus of workers from the sector prompted by the pandemic, HTIM will seek to help grow and support the careers of individuals by offering resources to educate and empower them through flexible program formats and schedules, so they will stay in the industry.

Justin Winslow. Courtesy the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association

“The hospitality industry in Michigan was decimated as a result of the pandemic and is still operating with 60,000 fewer employees than it was prior,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the MRLA. “The Hospitality Training Institute of Michigan has been thoughtfully designed to recruit for, and develop talent within, Michigan’s beleaguered hospitality industry. For prospective employees, that means a clear pathway toward advancement and a meaningful career, and for employers, the HTIM offers a proven curriculum that will improve operations during exceptionally challenging times.”

HTIM is a trade and career school that is approved by the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity that aims to be the first choice for leadership, compliance training and skillset development for the hospitality industry. 

The 12-week courses will explore the hospitality industry’s business side, from understanding point-of-sale reports and profit and loss statements to management and leadership training. HTIM also offers opportunities for apprenticeships with on-the-job learning and related training instruction.

Amanda Smith. Courtesy MRLA

Amanda Smith, EVP of education for the MRLA and executive director of the MRLA Educational Foundation, said the association already was planning to create an initiative like this before the pandemic, and COVID-19 only accelerated the need.

“Numbers had been declining for years, and one of the reasons, or one of the theories before the pandemic, was that we don’t often show people the way that they can be a leader in this industry or that there (is) high growth potential within the industry,” she said. “We’ve been looking at ways that we can help bring professionalism to the industry. We’ve seen a bunch of different programs and initiatives focused around that come forward, so we decided to develop the Hospitality Training Institute because with the natural loss of staff, with lower birth rates and all of that, and then the pandemic really just wreaking havoc on our supply chain of employees, we wanted to offer a way for people to upskill their skillsets and provide the instruction that goes with the apprenticeship-style training, as well.”

The school will kick off with two Michigan hospitality leadership certificate programs— the Hospitality Supervisor Certificate and the Hospitality Business Management Certificate. Both programs will be offered in two attendance formats — the hybrid model or the strictly online format. The hybrid model will be offered in Lansing, with classes starting March 21.

“Every student who completes one of the 12-week programs from HTIM will leave with the confidence, skills and credentials needed to advance in the industry,” Smith said.

Students will work through the curriculum and supporting program. The in-person, instructor-led sessions also require various online assignments, while the strictly online format will be delivered 100% remotely. Some of the certifications require a proctor to administer the exam on-site, so a few in-person proctor field offices will be available in various areas of Michigan, Smith said. Additional classes will be available throughout the year.

Smith said the teachers are subject-matter experts who hold certificates in the areas they will cover, and they all either have worked or currently work in the field.

The apprenticeship programs, which are sponsored by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation or the American Hotel & Lodging Association Foundation, have three educational tracks for on-the-job learning and related training instruction: restaurant line cook or hotel apprenticeship, lodging manager and restaurant manager. All students will already have a job in the industry and be working with their employer to complete their apprenticeship.

“You can have somebody at an entry level or relatively new to the industry start off in one of those programs where, as they are going through their apprenticeship with their employer, we’re able to provide the related instructional design that they need to finish the apprenticeship, and so that’s one half of what we’re doing. Then the other one, the leadership certificates, are for people that are currently working in industry that want to upskill their talents and be better at management,” Smith said.

She added the MRLA believes strong leadership is needed to help the industry reach its potential.

“People always like to talk about the industry as a place for high turnover rates. (We’re a) firm believer in ‘people leave bosses, not jobs,’ and the better the leadership is within the organization, the more we can grow and retain talent,” she said.

Courses in the leadership certificates will include training on unconscious bias and diversity, equity and inclusion; strategies to prevent sexual harassment; staff leadership best practices; schedule-building; and supporting employees.

Smith said anyone can attend the in-person Lansing cohort, not just Lansing-area professionals, and HTIM is planning to add future in-person cohorts in other cities once it determines where the demand is.

Each cohort will be capped at 35 students, in line with the model set forth by ServSafe and other national training programs to ensure comprehensive instruction and one-on-one time.

Smith said while she is not aware of any other similar training academies for the hospitality industry, MRLA followed the workforce development criteria set forth by Labor & Economic Opportunity for other industries so that the hospitality industry can better compete for talent.

“The growth potential for this industry is pretty unlimited, and for people who are looking for (variety), you never do the same thing twice inside the hospitality industry; it’s an ever-changing environment, it’s (fast) paced, it’s one where people can really grow, and we want to share that so people realize how much opportunity there is,” Smith said.

More about HTIM, including courses, fees and how to register, is available at htim.com

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