PITTSFIELD, MASS. (Feb. 18, 2019) – The continued success of the region’s hospitality industry depends on a skilled and inspired workforce. Beginning March 18, BCC’s Fast-Track Hospitality and Culinary Program will launch a pilot of three new non-credit certificates taught by industry experts. The new program is designed to provide the skills and experience needed to address the acute shortage of service professionals in the region, and to elevate the Berkshire experience for both visitors and full-time residents. The certificates aim to support local economies and to cultivate and retain young talent in the Berkshires.

Berkshire Community College’s (BCC) Community Engagement, Education & Workforce Development team has been developing a comprehensive county-wide plan to address hospitality needs in partnership with several key employers in the region. This spring, three non-credit, part-time certificates targeting distinct student interests will be offered:

· Hospitality Core Skills (Front-of-House Staff)

· Culinary Core Skills (Back-of-House Staff)

· Hospitality Leadership (Rising Managers)

During this grant-funded pilot initiative, Fast-Track Program courses will be offered at no cost to enrolled students or interested employers, supported by a Training Resources and Internship Network (TRAIN) grant from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. Upon coursework completion, students will be eligible to apply for a paid internship to train with participating employers, furthering their skill set and potential for permanent employment in the industry.

Instructors from the Berkshires’ most innovative hospitality and culinary businesses will teach practical classes and hands-on training at two locations: BCC’s main Pittsfield campus and BCC’s South County Center in Great Barrington.

Instructors include celebrated chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, hotel executives and operations managers from Mezze Bistro + Bar, part of Mezze Restaurant Group; The Red Lion Inn, part of Main Street Hospitality; TOURISTS Welcome; Canyon Ranch; South Egremont Spirit Shoppe; Guido’s Fresh Marketplace; Folklore Foods; Heirloom Fire; Custom Business Solutions; Organization Ink; RiseUP Leadership Coaching; 1Berkshire; and Berkshire Community College.

“We have been developing a hospitality training program with BCC for more than a year and are very excited to see it come to life as a pilot project this March,” said Nancy Thomas, founder and proprietor of Mezze Restaurant Group. “This is a great step forward to growing our community of hospitality professionals here in the Berkshires. Mezze is looking forward to having our team participate and learn more about students who complete the program.”

Employers are encouraged to recommend current and prospective staff members to attend. Local hospitality organizations interested in applying to become a host site for internships should send email to workshops@berkshirecc.edu or call 413.236.2127 for more information.

“Main Street Hospitality is honored to partner with BCC and our neighboring Berkshire hotels and restaurants to help build a sustainable hospitality certification program that will provide our community members with a pathway to a hospitality career,” said Eva Sheridan, Vice President of People + HR Development of Main Street Hospitality.

The grant supports workforce development of the unemployed and underemployed and provides partial funding to support BRTA bus transportation to and from the BCC Pittsfield campus as well as child-care reimbursement, if needed.

Community partners contributing to the development of this program include Mezze Restaurant Group and Main Street Hospitality.

In piloting the Fast-Track Hospitality and Culinary Program, BCC sets the stage for the reimagined future of the college’s South County Center, an 11,000-square-foot building on Main Street in Great Barrington. Since early 2018, BCC’s Community Engagement, Education & Workforce Development team has been exploring the demand for new educational programming focused on the food, agriculture and hospitality ecosystem and economy. Such new programming would provide students with challenging, contemporary curriculum in food systems with applicable skills ranging across farm-to-table culinary and entrepreneurship to policy studies and activism -- all to advance food culture in the Berkshires. An assessment of the South County Center building, funded by a Collaborative Workspace Grant from Mass Development, will take place in the spring of 2019 and include a feasibility study of a professional-level teaching kitchen build-out.

You can get more information about BCC’s Fast-Track Hospitality and Culinary Program including registration information by going here or you can send an email to workshops@berkshirecc.edu or call 413.236.2127.

(press release sent to WSBS from Berkshire Community College for online and on-air use, article image taken from BCC's Facebook page