Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently visited Foodlink in Rochester to announce grant award winners from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Workforce Development Initiative.
Foodlink is receiving a nearly $1 million award to support the Foodlink Career Fellowship, a culinary training program that creates pathways to prosperity for individuals with barriers to sustainable employment. The program was recognized by the Department of Labor in 2019 as the state’s only registered cook apprenticeship.
Funding allows Foodlink to sustain and expand the program, starting with the recruitment and launch of its third class of participants this summer, and a fourth class in early 2021.
“Putting people first is central to our mission,” said Julia Tedesco, president and CEO of Foodlink. “The Foodlink Career Fellowship epitomizes our belief that our role as an organization extends well beyond food banking. We nourish thousands of people on a daily basis, but also create opportunities for individuals to be empowered with the skills they need for a healthier future. We’re forever grateful that the state has recognized the potential of this innovative program to spur economic development and transform lives in our communities.”
The Foodlink Career Fellowship launched in 2018 to train individuals for middle-skills careers in the regional food industry. Fellows are nominated into the program, and progress through a yearlong curriculum that includes classroom and hands-on training within Foodlink’s commercial kitchen, where they help prepare afterschool and summer meals for Rochester students. Eight members of the first graduating class secured full-time employment in 2019, while seven current members of the fellowship are more than halfway through the program.
Awarded projects support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses’ short-term workforce needs, long-term industry needs, improve regional talent pipelines, enhance the flexibility and adaptability of local workforce entities, and expand workplace learning opportunities.
Also receiving funding are Baxter, Genesee Construction Service, Graham Corp., Lifetime Assistance, Mary Cariola Children’s Center, McAlpin Industries, Optimax, Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Prestolite and Wayne Finger Lakes BOCES.
Foodlink was awarded funding through the WDI’s Pay for Success program, which focuses on training opportunities for underserved and underemployed populations.
“The No. 1 issue I hear from employers across the state is that they can’t find workers with the skills they need for 21st-century jobs,” Hochul said. “The nearly $1 million in funding for Foodlink will expand the organization’s culinary training program and create more opportunities for individuals in the food industry.”
The Foodlink program includes nine months of training and a three-month externship at a regional employer.
“Before arriving at Foodlink, I wasn’t reaching my true potential,” said Da’Quan Quick, who was a member of the first class. “The fellowship made me believe in myself and gave me skills I needed to launch a career.”
Foodlink guided one class through the program in each of the first two years since its launch. It has committed to hosting two classes of approximately 15 participants each in the year ahead through the grant. Foodlink’s staff will recruit for the third class in July, followed by the fourth class in January 2021.