Can Chipotle be a career?

Chipotle Mexican Grill will hold Wednesday it’s first-ever National Career Day in an effort to overcome hiring obstacles on the burrito line.

The restaurants and accommodations industry sector saw the employee turnover rate rise for the fourth consecutive year in 2014 to about 66 percent, although it’s yet to return to pre-recession levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Competition is stiff among most industries for quality workers with needed skills, any workforce development expert would say.

And now that back-to-school season is here, the trickle-in of job applications is slowing down at Chipotle, even though the number of openings for new crew members remains the same, said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold.

So, Chipotle is doing something it’s never done before and holding a career day Wednesday, Sept. 9, with the goal of hiring 4,000 people nationwide, Arnold said.

“We have a really deep commitment to developing people from within. Right now more than 95 percent of our restaurant managers come from within the ranks of our crew,” Arnold said. “The aim for us is to really identify who are the real top performers in our crew and develop them to be the future leaders that we need.”

Currently, the burrito maker employs about 60,000 crew members and supervisors at more than 1,850 locations worldwide.

Each restaurant will be staffed to conduct 60 interviews on Wednesday. Job seekers should register online first at www.nationalcareerday.com to secure a time, Arnold said. Walk-in applicants are welcome but pre-registered job candidates will get first interview priority and walk-ins can’t be guaranteed a time slot, he said.

Entry-level crew positions at Chipotle pay approximately $10 an hour, varying by region depending on local cost of living, Arnold said.

But what sets Chipotle apart in the restaurant industry, he says, is the ability for someone who starts out warming tortillas to rise the ranks. Managers can earn five figure salaries and the most elite top managers can earn annual pay of six figures, according to the company.

The first step up for beginning crew is a kitchen manager, responsible for making sure all food is prepped and cooked properly. Then the next step up is service manager, overseeing the front of house, customer service and cash handling. After that employees can be promoted to apprentice, similar to an assistant general manager before having the opportunity to become general manager, Arnold said.

That’s where the road up ends at other restaurants, said Justin Athey, a local apprentice team leader for Chipotle. Based on his past experience in the business, general manager was the highest level to be achieved.

However, Chipotle offers further positions for advancement including restaurateur, apprentice team leader, team leader and so on, Athey said.

As a result, Chipotle tends to see greater employee retention the higher up the corporate ladder, Arnold, of the corporate Colorado office, said.

Athey, 28, rose from a crew member to his current title of apprentice team leader overseeing seven restaurants, including Troy, Centerville and Springboro sites, in less than five years, he said. He used to want to be a nurse. Now he plans on retiring from Chipotle.

“They didn’t let me down,” Athey said.

During hiring, Chipotle seeks key characteristics such as being polite, curious and infectiously enthusiastic, not necessarily years of cooking and waiting experience, Athey said. “You can’t teach” those traits, Athey said.

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