A-B Tech and Givens Estates Announce Culinary Apprenticeship Program, Touted as First in Western North Carolina

A-B Tech Community College and Givens Estates have signed the first comprehensive culinary apprenticeship in Western North Carolina as part of a revitalized effort to build a more highly skilled workforce through work-based learning.

“We are pleased to partner with Givens Estate and the world-class culinary program at A-B Tech to develop the first robust, high-quality culinary apprenticeship program for the region,” said Charlie Milling, ApprenticeshipNC Consultant for the Western and Northwestern Regions. “ApprenticeshipNC is excited to expand this historical program that will open the doors of opportunity for additional culinary programs in this region, which depends so heavily on this industry.”

The apprenticeship with Givens Estates builds on the retirement community’s recent $8 million investment in a new dining and culinary program, which includes three new restaurants, on the grounds of Givens Estates in South Asheville. “We employ many A-B Tech culinary graduates in our program, and this is the next step to helping our program grow through the combination of work-based training and academics,” said Kenneth Jensen, Givens Estates Dining Services Director.

The first apprentice in the program is Caitlyn Wright, who was one of six applicants for the position.  “It took several majors and 30 years to realize how much I wanted to do this, but I couldn’t go to school and work full-time, so this apprenticeship was too good to be true. I’m thrilled,” Wright said. She began working at Givens in July and is enrolled in A-B Tech’s fall semester.

“After the incredibly difficult year all of us in the Hospitality industry have had, I am beyond grateful that Givens Estates will have a registered culinary apprentice and will utilize A-B Tech’s culinary program for the educational piece of the pie,” said Cathy Horton, A-B Tech’s chair of Culinary and Hospitality Management. “In my opinion, this can be a way for employers to set themselves apart from the competition. Offering a student or employee the opportunity to earn an education and know that they have their employer’s support is a tremendous incentive for loyalty. A formalized apprenticeship is a win-win for everyone!”

The new apprenticeship is the first to be announced under A-B Tech’s newly formed Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeships department. “Registered apprenticeships help employers build a skilled workforce through on-the-job learning and related classroom instruction,” said Debbie Cromwell, director of the new department. “The creation of this department is our way of demonstrating how invested we are in helping our community grow and expand in these areas.”

“We’re grateful to Givens for making this commitment – and an apprenticeship is a commitment,” said Nathan Ramsey, director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board with Land of Sky Regional Council “It’s critical for the hospitality and tourism sector to commit to regional apprenticeships because the reality is that people who aren’t highly skilled will be swiftly sidelined in today’s job market.”

Ramsey also commended A-B Tech for expanding its apprenticeship program and touted the region’s first culinary apprenticeship. “The NC Community College System is one of the strengths of our state and A-B Tech has one of the best culinary programs in the entire country,” he said. “This sets an example for other employers in our region.”

Ramping up the apprenticeship program also is a significant step toward helping North Carolina achieve MyFutureNC30 goals, said A-B Tech President John Gossett.  “Apprenticeships pre-date formal education. Experience in the field of study is a critical piece of building a skilled workforce,” he said.

Cromwell said the culinary apprenticeship is the first in a series expected to begin during A-B Tech’s fall semester. Learn more at Work-Based Learning.

Pictured from left, are Cathy Horton, Caitlyn Wright, Kenneth Jensen, and Debbie Cromwell

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