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Culinary Careers - Future Outlook

Services is the largest and fastest growing major industry group and is expected to add 13.7 million new jobs by 2010, accounting for 3 out of every 5 new jobs created in the U.S. economy. Many young people work as chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers - almost 20 percent are between 16 and 19 years old. Almost 1 out of 2 food preparation workers are employed part time. Job openings are expected to be plentiful through 2010, primarily reflecting substantial turnover in this large occupation.

Chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers:
Job openings for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers are expected to be plentiful through 2010. Almost 60 percent of all chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers were employed in restaurants and other retail eating and drinking places. About 20 percent worked in institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Grocery stores, hotels, and other organizations employed the remainder.

While job growth will create new positions, the overwhelming majority of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who leave this large occupational group. Minimal educational and training requirements, combined with a large number of part-time positions, make employment as chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers attractive to people seeking a short-term source of income and a flexible schedule.

Projected employment growth, however, varies by specialty. Increases in the number of families and the more affluent, 55-and-older population will lead to more restaurants that offer table service and more varied menus - resulting in faster-than-average growth among higher-skilled restaurant cooks.

Wages of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers depend greatly on the part of the country and the type of establishment in which they are employed. Wages usually are highest in elegant restaurants and hotels, where many executive chefs are employed.

Bakers and pastry makers:
While high-volume production equipment limits the demand for bakers in manufacturing, overall employment of bakers is expected to increase due to growing numbers of large wholesale bakers, in store and specialty shops, and traditional bakeries. In addition to those of cookie, muffin, and cinnamon roll bakeries, the numbers of specialty bread and bagel shops also have been growing, spurring demand for bread and pastry bakers.

Bakers often start off as apprentices or trainees. Apprentice bakers usually start in craft bakeries, while in store bakeries such as supermarkets often employ trainees. Bakers need to be skilled in baking, icing, cake decorating and making calculations. They also need to be able to follow instructions, organize others, have an eye for detail, and communicate well with others. Knowledge of bakery products and ingredients, as well as mechanical mixing and baking equipment, is important. Many apprentice bakers participate in correspondence study and may work towards a certificate in baking. Working as a baker's assistant or at other activities involving handling food also is a useful tool for training.

The complexity of the skills required for baker certification often is underestimated. Creating and marketing bakery products requires knowledge of applied chemistry, ingredients and nutrition, government regulations, business concepts, and production processes, including the operation and maintenance of machinery. Modern food plants utilize high-speed, automated machinery that often is operated by computers.

Hotel and restaurant managers:
Traditionally, many hotels filled first-level manager positions by promoting administrative support and service workers - particularly those with good communication skills, a solid educational background, tact, loyalty, and a capacity to endure hard work and long hours. People with these qualities still advance to manager jobs, but more recently lodging chains have primarily been hiring persons with 4-year college degrees in the liberal arts or other fields and starting them in trainee or junior management positions. Bachelorís and masterís degree programs in hotel and restaurant management provide the strongest background for a career as a hotel manager. Graduates of these programs are highly sought by employers in this industry. New graduates often go through on-the-job training programs before being given much responsibility. Eventually, they may advance to a top management position in a large chain operation.

Upper management positions, such as general manager, lodging manager, food service manager, or sales manager, generally require considerable formal training and job experience. Some department managers, such as comptrollers, purchasing managers, executive housekeepers, and executive chefs, generally require some specialized training and extensive on-the-job experience. To advance to positions with more responsibilities, managers frequently change employers or relocate to a chain property in another area.

Wage and salary employment in hotels and other lodging places is expected to increase 13 percent over the 2000-10 period. Job growth reflects rising personal income, an increase in the number of two-income families, low-cost airfares, emphasis on leisure activities, and growth of foreign tourism in the United States. In addition, special packages for short vacations and weekend travel should stimulate employment growth and, as more States legalize some form of gambling, the hotel industry will increasingly invest in gaming, further fueling job growth.

Job opportunities should be concentrated in the largest hotel occupations, such as building cleaning workers and hotel, motel and resort desk clerks. Because all-suite properties as well as extended stay and budget hotels and motels do not have restaurants, dining rooms, lounges, or kitchens, these limited-service establishments offer a narrower range of employment opportunities.

Employment outlook varies by occupation. Employment of hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks is expected to grow rapidly as some of these workers assume responsibilities previously reserved for managers. However, the spread of computer technology will cause employment of other clerical workers - bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks and secretaries, for example - to grow more slowly than the industry as a whole. Employment of waiters and waitresses is projected to decline - reflecting the trend toward hotels and other lodging places that do not offer full-service restaurants. Similarly, employment of lodging managers is expected to increase more slowly than the overall hotel industry due to the growth of economy-class establishments with fewer departments to manage. However, the trend toward chain-affiliated lodging places should provide managers with opportunities for advancement into general manager positions and corporate administrative jobs. Opportunities should be more limited for self-employed managers or owners of small lodging places.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics - Occupational Outlook Handbook 2003

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