NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - North Adams Public Schools is partnering with McCann Technical High School to provide a culinary arts program that gives adult learners the opportunity to begin a career and advance in the industry.

What You Need To Know

  • The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program of North Adams Public Schools is partnering with McCann Technical High School to launch the first MassSTEP program in Berkshire County

  • This 16 week Culinary Arts Program allows participants, some seeking their GED/HiSET, to graduate with an OSHA-10 certification, ServSafe Food Handler Certification, as well as ServSafe Allergen training

  • The program is free for students through a DESE grant for MassSTEP Programs

  • The goal is to provide workforce development opportunities for adult learners

“I find it rewarding,” chef instructor Patrick Cariddi said.

The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Culinary Arts Program aims to address the industry-wide issue of understaffing.

“The idea is that the workforce in the area needs workers for the foodservice industry,” Cariddi said.

As students practiced prepping for a night of service, Cariddi said the 16 weeks of classes provides a full scope-approach.

“It's the process of learning, you know, the entire operation," Cariddi said. "We did customer service the other night, we're going to do a mock restaurant on Thursday night.”

“The goal is to get the training now," said Eric Odell, a student in the program. "So, I'm able to work in a restaurant and know my way around the restaurant.”

Some, like Odell, come from minimal experience in the kitchen.

“I jumped at the opportunity because it's something I've been wanting to do for a while now anyway," Odell said.

Others, like Anthony Monson, said the program is opening doors in an industry they’ve been a part of for years.

“I needed to get certified," Monson said. "I got offered a catering job, catering chef job over at Williams Inn, but I'm not certified. This is definitely a one up.”

Julianna Thrasher joins the many who are building their confidence in the kitchen, a key ingredient for working in many fast-paced restaurants.

“Just being able to experience new things, learn and not feel like I’m slowing everybody down because I don't know what I'm doing," Thrasher said. "Because when you're doing stuff in the kitchen with everyone else having more experience, it kind of feels anxious. Now that I'm doing this course, I feel like it's going to be easier when I go out there.”

Cariddi said developing strong skills often leads to long careers in the foodservice industry.

“As you feel successful, you continue to feel like you're growing," Cariddi said. "In our industry, there are so many different aspects of it, they can continue to move forward with the industry. This is a good starting point to get into and then it'll just kick kickstart their careers.”

The program is made possible through MassSTEP with a grant from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Northern Berkshire Adult Education Program plans to offer more sessions in the future.