Nick Kapnison and partners Jimmy and Nadine Daskalos are giving people another reason to work at one of their restaurants: an education.
The owners of Nick and Jimmy’s, Mykonos and El Patron have begun a work-study program for their employees. Kapnison said Kaps Coffee Shop and Diner, which is run by Kapnison’s children, is also participating.
“We love it,” Kapnison said. “We want educated and dedicated employees.”
Kapnison said the program has four participants but he wants to expand that to 20 by next year.
Holly Maurer, one of the program participants said, “I love it. Without the program, I would be taking out loans. It would be very difficult for me.”
Maurer is currently in her second semester at the University of New Mexico and bartends nights at Nick and Jimmy’s on Pan American Freeway.
“When I first moved here I thought about working at Starbucks because they have a similar program,” Maurer said. “But then I saw what (Nick and Jimmy’s) was doing and decided I would work there full time because their program is better.”
According to Kapnison, the restaurants are all willing to work around the participants’ school schedules as part of making education a priority.
The program, which pays tuition in full, involves several requirements. The employee must work a 40-hour-a-week schedule at one of the owners’ restaurants for six months before they are eligible. After that, they simply tell management they are interested. Kapnison and Dasklaos will then pay full tuition for the participant semester by semester as long as they are employed with the restaurant and maintain a 29-hour-a-week schedule — though Kapnison said that number is negotiable.
“It’s very simple. We aren’t trying to make this hard. We want people participating,” he said.
The program does not include an age requirement and no experience is necessary to begin the six-month prerequisite. Kapnison said they will provide training.
The work study is available to all employees and applies to CNM, UNM and various trade schools.
“If someone wants to go to chef school, that is great for us, but you can study anything you want,” says Kapnison. Employees can begin at anytime in their education.
Though work study and tuition assistance programs are not unusual for larger companies — Starbucks, UPS, Wells Fargo, Best Buy, Sandia Labs and many others offer some form of these programs — paying full tuition for employees appears to be less common among small businesses.
“When I first presented this idea to (Jimmy and Nadine) they thought I was crazy. Now they are so excited about it.”
So what do Kapnison and Daskalos get out of this? Loyal employees and lower training costs. “Employee turnover is a huge expense,” Kapnison said. “Every time we have to train a new employee it’s about $8,000. There is a lot to it. It’s not just sign a piece of paper and here is your uniform.”