GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Several Kent Career Tech Center Hospitality and Health students participated in a new internship with Trinity Health this year — the first for the program in about 20 years — and five left with a permanent job.

Starting Jan. 10, 11 Advanced Culinary Arts students in the Hospitality & Culinary Program were placed at Trinity Health after they qualified for a work-based learning paid internship. They rotated through three five-week experiences in the hospital’s kitchen.

“One on the patient line where they’re cooking patient meals as they come in a la carte,” Luke Vandop, Kent Career Tech Center hospitality instructor, explained. “The second was working down in the cafe where they were serving guests, doctors, nurses (and) people that work at the hospital. And the third is their catering piece, which happens that they do special functions within the hospital for their executives or whatever meetings they may be having.”

The internship took the students out of the controlled environment of school and placed them in a real-world environment where they had to work in a large kitchen, improvise if necessary and deal with the “headaches that come along with that we can’t quite simulate here at the Tech Center,” Vandop said.

“We know the importance of providing an education, providing resources, and here we have an opportunity to teach our students not only what they’ve learned in class but how that is applied in a business setting,” Bryan Nader, regional executive chef, food and nutrition division for Trinity Health Grand Rapids, said in a release.

Those who did not qualify for the internship worked on the same skills in the classroom with Vandop.

An undated photo of Jerrod Spencer. (Courtesy of Kent Career Tech Center)

Jerrod Spencer, one of the students who did participate in the internship, has wanted to be a chef since he was 5 years old and has “always been comfortable in the kitchen.”

“I like the way my food makes people feel. I like cooking and I love feeding people,” he said.

The internship brought an exciting way to continue his learning three days a week during the lunch rush at the hospital.

“We’d get to the hospital, clock in and go directly to the kitchen. Put our aprons on, get ready and wait for Chef Bryan to come out and give us our assignments,” Spencer said. “When we figured out what we would be doing, we’d go to the areas that he had us stationed at and do what we’re told.”

Kent Career Tech Center students participate in an internship at Trinity Health (Courtesy of Kent Career Tech Center)

Vandop said during the internship, some of the students excelled and chose to use the time as a “long-term interview process.”

“… Were they there on time, were they in uniform on time, were they prepared for work, how did they interact with their peers what was their level of desire to do well?” he said. “They created their own opportunity by having the right attitude and the right work ethic which is critical in our business.”

Five students, including Spencer, were hired for full-time positions at the hospital.

“I got out of high school with a full-time job that is going to pay for 60% of my college,” Spencer said, adding that he plans to continue his culinary education at Grand Rapids Community College.

KCTC and Trinity Health plan to continue the internship with the next round of students beginning at the hospital in January.

For more information on the KCTC Hospitality & Culinary Program, click here. Anyone interested in joining the program is asked to speak with their school counselor.