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Hospitality job program for inmates launched

Thursday, November 7, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kathleen Pierce
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CARRABASSETT, VALLEY, Maine — While behind bars for crimes, inmates at Maine state prisons can now do more than time. 


HospitalityMaine, the state’s non-profit restaurant and hotel trade group, and the Maine Department of Corrections announced a partnership Tuesday to train offenders in hospitality work and place them in jobs. 


Through HospitalityMaine’s apprenticeship program, inmates can work as culinary apprentices while they prepare for their release – when they will be encouraged to continue their training working as line cooks at participating restaurants.  


This is the first association to partner with the Department of Corrections to make career opportunities available to this previously untapped workforce pool.


“We know how to reduce recidivism,” said DOC Commissioner Randall Liberty. “Education, job training, support services and stigma reduction. That’s exactly what this partnership is all about.”


With Maine’s shortage of hospitality workers growing more dire, HospitalityMaine reached out to the DOC to collaborate on a “home grown” solution. 


“So much of this has been talked about,” said Terry Hayes, the association’s director of workforce development, who launched the hospitality apprenticeship program in March. “This population needs meaningful, living-wage employment and our members need a fresh source of talent. Our collaboration with DOC is a real step forward toward solving our state-wide workforce needs.” 


The partnership was announced Tuesday at HospitalityMaine’s Summit at Sugarloaf. It was delivered after a keynote speech from Chad Houser, a Dallas chef whose restaurant model is based on training inmates. “What HospitalityMaine and the Maine Department of Corrections are doing is a model for the rest of the country to follow,”  said Houser, owner of Cafe Momentum. “This is something our industry needs, but our country needs even more so.”  


The 250 restaurateurs and hoteliers present applauded this new avenue for finding qualified employees. A handful of servers at the summit lunch were prototypes for the program. Five inmates from Mountain View Correctional Facility and Southern Maine Women’s Reentry Center worked the buffet line, interacting with guests.  


“This partnership isn’t about taking a chance on someone, it’s about standing beside someone worthy of redemption,” said Liberty. “We applaud HospitalityMaine and all those associated with the hospitality industry in Maine. You recognize everyone has a role to play, each one of us has the ability to be of value.”


DOC Deputy Commissioner Ryan Thornell said “we are working with the Department of Labor to track employment post release, something that hasn’t been done before in Maine.”