Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, the culinary school operated by NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville, will hire between four and five apprentices over the next 12 to 15 months, said Chef Steve Jenkins, director of culinary operations for Brightwater.
The apprentices will have the opportunity to work with Brightwater’s eight to 15 chefs. Before culinary schools became prevalent in the mid-1900s, people who’d like to learn to cook would become a chef’s apprentice, Jenkins said.
“In the culinary world, going to school to cook is a new concept,” he said. And because the community college also focuses on trades and skills, it made sense to offer on-the-job training along with traditional classes.
Apprentices will work 40 hours a week, or a total of 6,000 hours, which is about three years. Pay starts at $10 per hour and will rise 10% every six months based on performance. The position also includes benefits that other full-time NWACC staff would receive, such as health insurance and two weeks of paid vacation.
After completing the apprenticeship program, apprentices will receive a certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor and be considered a journey worker cook.
“That is a transferrable and meaningful certificate,” Jenkins said, adding that an apprentice who receives the certificate from the federal agency would receive the same one if they were to earn the certificate in Florida.
Apprentices also will be required to take classes, for which they won’t be charged. Apprentices who complete the program will have completed between two-thirds and three-fourths of the classes required to earn an associate degree.
Those with culinary experience won’t be excluded, but the program is best suited for one who has no experience in the industry, Jenkins said.