Getting Qualified:New Cooking School Program in Everett to Prepare Residents for Casino Jobs

October 13, 2017
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By Seth Daniel

It’s one thing to be excited and talk about some 4,000 casino jobs coming to Everett, but it’s a whole other thing to fill those jobs with qualified Everett residents.

That challenge has become prominent this year as the Wynn Boston Harbor casino has begun to come out of the ground and the opening date of June 2019 continues to creep closer and closer.

Now, in the spirit of preparation, an innovative program from the New England Center for Arts and Technology (NECAT) that is funded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is getting ready to start in Everett. The program targets the chronically unemployed and helps them to achieve life skills and also get into the food service industry – which is one of the largest growing industries in the Boston area and will only become stronger once Wynn Boston Harbor opens.

Josephine ‘Joey’ Cuzzi is the director of NECAT and told the Independent that they will be starting the unique program on Oct. 30 at Everett High School. The program will have a preference for Everett residents, but is targeted to those also in Malden, Chelsea and Revere.

“We want to help people in Everett who have a history of being unemployed get the skills they will need when applying for jobs at the casino,” said Cuzzi. “It’s two years out from the casino opening, but that’s 16 months they will have to develop their skills to get their training and then get a job for a year, have a year under their belt, and then migrate to the casino. That’s the plan.”

Cuzzi stressed that the program isn’t for everybody, but only for those who are low-income and chronically unemployed. She said they will have 20 to 25 people in the class starting on Oct. 30, and then they will do a second round in February as well. The program is a one-year pilot, but one that she said everyone is watching with the hopes it will succeed.

“We hope we can continue this next year after the pilot,” she said. “Everyone is going to be looking at this pilot and how well it goes and how successful it is. If it succeeds, they will be looking at how we can train even more people. Wynn is working close with us and has had their executive chefs contact us. They really want to see this work and succeed.”

Mayor Carlo DeMaria will also be watching closely, as he said getting Everett residents job-ready for the casino is a major priority for the City right now.

“My top priority is to ensure that Everett residents have the opportunity to succeed, have a career and raise a family right here in Everett,” he said. “The NECAT program can be that opportunity. I hope our residents will take advantage of it.”

Cuzzi said NECAT began in Boston’s Newmarket neighborhood four years ago after it was apparent there was a great need to train people for jobs for the restaurant industry. Now, working with 65 employer partners, that facility is bursting at the seams and she said there simply are not enough people to fill jobs.

That’s why partnering with Everett and the Everett Schools has been a great fit.

“It’s a great expansion opportunity for us,” she said. “We want to train more people and our Boston facility is maxed out now. This is one of the fastest growing segments in the Greater Boston area. You can see now that restaurants are delaying their openings just to staff up. The numbers of restaurant openings are growing fast. Now and in the foreseeable future there will be a large demand for these jobs. I don’t see that leveling off. There is just no shortage of jobs in this industry and I can’t stress that enough.”

Cuzzi said she thanks Supt. Fred Foresteire and the School Department for offering the use of the Everett High training kitchen, which is a great facility.

She said being able to bring the program to Everett is key with a population that has been struggling to keep a job for long periods of time.

“Trying to encourage people to come to Boston from Everett would have been hard,” she said. “Being able to do the program in the neighborhood and community is critical to its success. The School Department has been very generous and I can’t thank them enough.”

Those in the program will be taught all the basics that are necessary for working in a professional kitchen, including knife skills, cooking techniques and how to follow recipes and terminology from executive chefs. Beyond that, however, the program helps those who have long histories of unemployment to develop life skills, things Cuzzi said are as basic as showing up on time and being ready.

Cuzzi said about 80 percent of the graduates of NECAT have been able to find jobs immediately upon graduation.

The program is supported by the MGC’s Community Mitigation Fund and is offered at no cost to students. For more information, please contact Elise Brandwein at  HYPERLINK “mailto:ebrandwein@ne-cat.org” ebrandwein@ne-cat.org or 617-442-3600 x704.