Student-employee opportunities and training available through Eastern Dining Services

Eastern food services provide experience and hands-on skills for future jobs

EWU+dining+services+offers+many+on+campus+jobs+for+students.

Photo by Tanner Streicher

EWU dining services offers many on campus jobs for students.

By Aaron Bocook, Staff Writer

On a shoulder-high grey metal shelf in Tawanka 101, a black, two-inch-thick three-ring binder sits, marked with a rainbow of numbered plastic tabs and scribbled-on Post-it notes.

“This is pretty much our backbone,” Dave McKay, EWU Director of Dining Services, said. “And university policies are wired into this.”

McKay has been at Eastern since October 1989, and said over the last couple of years, he has seen his staff work hard on improving their training program. The task is a big undertaking; Dining Services is the largest employer of student staff on campus. In the next payroll cycle this October, McKay said they will have over 300 students on their payroll.

Giuseppe Basta, EWU alumnus, said he was a Dining Services employee on and off during his time as a student at EWU between 2003 and 2008 and worked a variety of positions such as preparing food, grilling sandwiches and even occasional catering on campus.

“I think the training was adequate,” Basta said. “Much of it was common sense. Over the years I’ve found you can’t train stupid no matter how hard you try.”

McKay said his department is always trying to develop new training and constantly looking for the weak spots in service to improve both student employment and customer satisfaction.

“For a lot of our students, it’s their first job. So the work environment is fairly new to them,” McKay said. “There is a lot of training and development that goes on, especially in the first quarter of someone working for us.”

Basta said initially getting the job was pretty easy; willingness to show up on time and work is held in high esteem. He said it paid off for him, and one of the best aspects of having a job with Dining Services is getting built-in raises.

“I started at $7 and change per hour but was making $9.25 when I left. Contrasted with other places, you can’t get any kind of significant raise even if you are competent and can work many positions.”

According to McKay, university standards call for set wage-raise milestones—for every 440 hours worked, student employees get a pay increase. There is also room for advancement.

For key performers and students who are interested in building their professional resume, Dining Services offers student lead, student supervisor and student manager positions for promotion and development.

McKay said those positions play a key role for Dining Services and are critical to everything students and staff see in dining operations at Eastern.

From time to time, like any job, there are problems. The number one issue, according to McKay,  is peer-to-peer conflict, often between customers and employees facing off on opposite sides of the counter. He said his staff spent a lot of time this summer developing a new student customer service training program, and starting in October, all new and existing student employees will have to go through this training.

According to Basta, he had both good and bad experiences as a Dining Services employee. He said though food service is sometimes considered a low-skill trade, it is still hard work.

But being a mostly EWU student-provided service, Basta said to expect a brighter-than-average employee to be serving customers.