Twenty-five-year-old Conner Brodeur of Denver has a newfound sense of direction in his professional life as a sous chef apprentice.
After graduating from high school in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Conner found work in restaurant kitchens. He enjoyed cooking but wasn’t sure how to pursue his passion without breaking the bank.
Then he discovered the American Culinary Federation Colorado Chefs Association Apprenticeship Program, a perfect fit for both his budget and his goals.
The two-year apprenticeship program − which partners with the American Culinary Federation Education Institute and the U.S. Department of Labor − has trained culinary apprentices like Conner for nearly 40 years and helps them find meaningful employment in the industry.
At $7,000 for two years, tuition is significantly less than attending an in-state public university. Classroom instruction is conducted in partnership with Emily Griffith Technical College, and on-the-job paid training takes place the rest of the week under the guidance of a qualified mentor in a professional kitchen.
“The work experience that you get is invaluable,” said Conner. “You’re seeing the whole process of the dish to the end result, so it’s pretty cool.”
Another valuable aspect is the chance to rub elbows with professionals in the field, Conner noted. “It is a great way to network and meet other chefs.” In a competitive environment, these contacts are key to helping aspiring sous chefs to get a foot in the door.
American Culinary Federation Executive Director Joan Brewster says that apprenticeship is one of the leading answers to solving the food service industry's employment issue – specifically the demand for skilled restaurant workers in Colorado’s booming culinary industry.
ACFCCA is currently enrolling students for the program's fall semester.
To find out more about apprenticeship opportunities in your area, or to learn how to start a program, visit www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.
Juan Rodriguez is a public affairs specialist for the Labor Department in Dallas.