By Dale J. Venturini
As our legislative season winds down, we remain optimistic that bills put before the House and Senate by organized, outside labor influences will not pass. As I’ve detailed in past columns, we are under attack by out-of-state, organized forces that are in place to misrepresent the restaurant industry, how we operate and how we compensate the more than 70,000 employed here in Rhode Island. They have one agenda, to mislead the public and lawmakers in order to affect changes in the compensation laws so that they will profit.
With so much recent focus on legislative issues, I want to take a different route and share some incredible experiences that we, as an industry and association, have accomplished recently.
Each year, the Association hosts an impressive schedule of events, meetings, seminars, training and education classes, and website communications in support of the hospitality industry. Through its educational arm, the RI Hospitality Education Foundation, the Association develops, supports and promotes career growth opportunities within the hospitality industry to benefit students, organizations and the economy. It achieves this mission through its focus on career awareness, providing work-readiness training, and offering occupational skills training for youth, unemployed adults and incumbent employees.
This year to date, the RI Hospitality Education Foundation has trained more than 672 students and adult learners. In its history, this number has reached more than 3,500 students who have taken advantage of classes that span from Hospitality Training, to ServSafe Food Safety Training, ServSafe Online Classes and a myriad of partnership programs with community organizations.
I was so proud to attend a graduation of adult learners through our RI Hospitality Education Foundation last month. They successfully completed the S.T.A.R.T program, an internationally-recognized overview of the lodging industry through the American Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Institute. As a result, every single graduate has received a job offer in our industry. That is a 100% success rate.
Just last month, Governor Gina Raimondo visited with students at the William M. Davies, Jr. Career & Technical High School. Students shared their experiences representing Rhode Island at the National ProStart Invitational®, the country’s premier high school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts, through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The students prepared the same meal for Governor Raimondo that they presented at the national competition; she enjoyed it so much that she asked for the recipe so that she could make it at home with her family. Additionally, the RI Hospitality Education Foundation donated $4,000 to help the students attend the ProStart Invitational in Anaheim, CA.
These are just recent examples, and there are countless more. When our industry is fighting for its very existence, it’s often easy to overlook the fact that we continue to change lives every day. The hospitality industry provides experiences and opportunities unlike any other industry, and we have a lot to celebrate and to be proud of.
We take our role seriously as an economic cornerstone in the state, providing more than $181 million to state coffers in the form of meals and beverage taxes, tax on food service and hotel tax. We continue to be one of the largest employers, providing jobs for more than 70,000 folks from college students working part time, to those who make a career in our industry. We are a true community partner in good times and in bad. We live here, work here and love this state. And, our only mission is to continue to strengthen and grow this valuable and beloved industry.
A veteran of more than 25 years in the hospitality industry, Dale Venturini is considered by many to be the voice of the industry in the state of Rhode Island. She has been instrumental in improving the industry’s educational and training programs in the state, as well as enhancing the bottom line of the business she represents. Ms. Venturini splits her time between the office and the State House, a constant presence for her membership.