New school serves up culinary education with experience
Jim Stiff, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, is also president of the Helms College, LLC, a new venture that is part of the Goodwill campus growing on the corner of Washington and Furys Ferry roads.
“We’re unique, which is why it took the Department of Education a long time to figure out what box to check, because we’re not a proprietary school,” he says. “We’re a unique nonprofit entrepreneurial college that focuses on experiential learning. We’re almost like a proprietary school with a heart.”
Helms College, named after Dr. Edgar Helms, the Methodist minister who founded Goodwill 109 years ago, recently received Title IV funding in addition to its other funding sources, which include the GI Bill and Vocational Rehabilitation Services scholarships.
Keeping their accreditation will be difficult, though it will ensure a high quality of education.
“We have to graduate 65 percent of the people we start to keep the accreditation,” he says. “Of those people who graduate, 70 percent have to have a job within 120 days in the field of study that they studied.”
In other words, school officials have to make sure their students have the skills to be successful.
“I think the fruit of that will put us as a light beam in all of this post-secondary crisis that’s now affecting the proprietary schools,” Stiff says.
Stiff recently received the results of a Fanning Institute study that interviewed the 50 largest businesses in the CSRA and middle Georgia and asked them for their 2016 middle skills needs. They also interviewed about 10 community colleges, technical colleges, for-profit schools and public schools and did an overlay for a gaps analysis. They discovered that cooks and chefs were the No. 1 projected job in 2016 in terms of growth for the Augusta area, which is why they are starting their educational programming with the culinary arts.
David Ross is the department chair of culinary education for Helms College, which started classes October 29.
“I’ll be teaching ServSafe sanitation,” he says. “That will be a week-long, classroom-based course. Then we’ll go into hospitality and restaurant management, which is another classroom-based course for another week. Then, we come into 230 hours of culinary lab work.”
Three kitchen labs capable of handling 20 students at a time are filled with state of the art equipment, giving students the opportunity to earn a diploma or an associates degree.
Though other schools in the CSRA teach culinary arts, Ross says Helms College is the only one to offer an associates degree.
The inaugural class is small, but Ross says the program can support as many as 300.
Because Goodwill and Helms College want the diploma to be viable, the classes and the curriculum are specifically designed for those entry jobs where you can become a prep cook, a line cook or a sous chef, depending on the scale of the restaurant. And because the school has so many local executive chefs on its advisory board, students will have ample opportunities to practice their craft.
“For example, the executive chef at the National has already said that any student we have going through the course that also completes the course — he’ll hire at the National,” Ross says.
And because of the tremendous demand for cooks and chefs during Masters, the school will be closed during that time to allow everyone to go out and experience working the tournament.
“This year, they’re talking about bringing in 1,000 just to work in the back-of-house hospitality and so on,” Ross says. “Rather than ship people in, you’ve got people right here.”
Ross says that those who continue studying and earn their associates degree will be able to climb higher in the field.
“At that point, you can definitely get a job as a sous chef and within a couple of years a chef and within a couple of years of that an executive chef,” he says. “You can actually keep increasing your knowledge and experience, and that elevates you to different positions.”
Such experiential learning is fundamental to the Helms College experience, which is something they hope to franchise.
“From Augusta, we’ll actually birth these other branches that will be connected to the mother ship here,” Stiff says. “They literally will be branches of this campus, with the other Goodwills probably providing the case management wrap around services, the recruitment and maybe the whole student services section.”
Stiff will get a chance to show off the concept in February, when Augusta welcomes the greater Goodwill community by hosting the International Conference for all Goodwill CEOs. Then, the Goodwill executives, who are all autonomous under the umbrella of Goodwill Industries, will be exposed to two of the Goodwill campus’ greatest assets — the 100-seat Edgar’s restaurant and the 300-seat convention center, both of which are set to open near the beginning of the year.
According to Ross, Edgar’s, named after founder Helms, will be a fine dining restaurant on par with anything else in the city.
“It’s going to be open for lunch and dinner,” he says. “Outside, there will be landscaped fountains and bistro seating, and the main reception area will have a beautiful live action station tapas bar with a couple of chefs. There will also be an open brick oven for pizzas and various things.”
Students will be able to gain experience working at the restaurant and the convention center, something Stiff hopes will be a selling point to the other CEOs, who might want a similar program in their jurisdiction.
Eventually, Stiff says Helms College will offer much more than culinary arts, including a healthcare training program with an assisted living center, a horticulture training program with a commercial landscaping company and a computer technology program with a business center located in the conference center.
In keeping with the Helms college model established by the culinary arts program, each field of study will be accompanied by an applied learning venue.You Might Also Like:
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