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Ontario High, Chaffey District Helping to Fill the Growing Demand Within the IE’s Booming Hospitality Industry

By Steve Lambert
The 20/20 Network
08/29/2023 at 08:57 AM

What Arthur Barbosa is cooking up in a Career Technical Education classroom at Ontario High School isn’t your father’s, or mother’s, home economics course. Barbosa, a former long-time manager at In-N-Out, heads up the school's Culinary Arts program, forging career pathways for the chefs, restaurant managers, and hospitality industry leaders of tomorrow.

“I want to ignite that fire for them. That’s the goal – for these students to succeed and enjoy what they’re doing,” says Barbosa, a second-year teacher and an Ontario High alum who has been entrusted with one of the school’s more popular pathways.

On a recent day, 18 juniors and seniors in Barbosa’s advanced culinary class were completing coursework to earn their food handler’s certificates, a necessary credential for working at a restaurant. Longer term, the program is targeted to fill a growing workforce need within the Inland Empire’s hospitality industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board, and GOCAL (Greater Ontario California), leisure and hospitality rank among the IE’s Top 5 employment sectors, exceeding 180,000 jobs and accounting for more than $5.1 billion a year in wages. Annual restaurant spending alone in San Bernardino County now exceeds $1.4 billion, and no fewer than five colleges in the county now have degree programs in culinary arts or hospitality management.

“There is a strong and growing demand for qualified workers in the hospitality industry. Through our culinary arts programs at Ontario and Montclair High Schools, it’s our goal to help fill that need while preparing our students for the next step in their college and career journeys,” says Dr. Mathew Holton, Superintendent of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

At Ontario High, students can participate in an introductory class – Barbosa teaches four of them –before moving up to the advanced program. The school built a modern kitchen in 2019, providing students the opportunity to prepare meals and cater events.

With a nod to the hit TV show, “The Bear,” students learn the value of teamwork and respect.

“They’re able to experience what it’s like to experience a kitchen and to enjoy being together,” says Barbosa, who worked at In-N-Out for 20 years before pursuing his dream of being a teacher in 2022.

Eduardo Zaldivar, Director of Career Readiness for the Chaffey District, says students at all eight of its comprehensive high schools have the opportunity to learn about 21st-century career opportunities.

“We provide students with technical skills, career assessments, employability skills, life skills, and learning skills – an approach we call TCELL. By the time every student graduates, he or she will have participated in at least one pathway program,” Zaldivar says.

That commitment is paying off, says Larry Rook, Principal at Ontario High.

“It’s so rewarding to see students light up when they come across a career opportunity that fits with their sense of purpose. It’s our responsibility, and our commitment, to make that happen,” Rook says.

Click here for more on the Chaffey District’s Career Technical Education resources.