CCAC president looks to fill educational niche in burgeoning restaurant industry
Community College of Allegheny County President Quinton Bullock wants to expand the school’s job-training programs, particularly for chefs and restaurant workers, to strengthen its connection to North Side neighborhoods and fill a need in the local food industry.
Pittsburgh has about 260 openings a year in the restaurant industry, but culinary training programs graduate only about 60 people a year, Bullock told the CCAC board last month.
Part of his goal for the Allegheny West campus is to expand its commercial kitchen, bring in full-time faculty and integrate the program with greenhouse and rooftop garden facilities for “farm-to-table” training.
“The existing curriculum can be scaled up to meet the market with properly-equipped facilities,” Bullock said.
CCAC spokeswoman Elizabeth Johnston said Bullock’s proposals — which could include computer labs for IT training programs and a “maker space” with 3-D printers for advanced manufacturing training — are “still just a preliminary vision” and haven’t come back to the board for more discussion about financing and implementation.
Restaurant-industry officials said an expanded culinary program could fill a niche.
Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts graduated its final class and closed its classrooms and kitchens along Liberty Avenue, Downtown, in 2012. That left CCAC and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with the only graduate-level culinary programs in the city.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association has partnered with the national ProStart program to provide culinary job training at the high-school level; it has locations in Allison Park, New Stanton, Meadville, Latrobe, Uniontown and Johnstown, association spokeswoman Stephanie Otterson said.
The group’s president, John Longstreet, said people with more disposable income and more exposure to things such as the Food Network are driving demand in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“People are being exposed to food much more than they ever had before. People are more excited about trying new things, or going out and trying chef-driven restaurants,” Longstreet said.
Among the association’s 3,000 member organizations, a shortage of available workers is a frequent concern, he said.
“I think (Bullock) is right on tune in saying they need to expand their program,” Longstreet said.
Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or [email protected].