Making a positive impact in U.S. communities through Diageo’s ‘Learning Skills for Life’ program

Making a positive impact in U.S. communities through Diageo’s ‘Learning Skills for Life’ program

14 Dec 2023
Graduates of the Learning Skills For Life program in Washington, DC.

Graduates of the Learning Skills For Life program in Washington, DC.

The hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, as furloughs and layoffs wiped out millions of jobs within a two-month period1. But if recent hiring trends are any indication of things to come, the industry is bouncing back. U.S. restaurant employment reached pre-pandemic levels for the first time in three-and-a-half years, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics2. From sold-out concerts to blockbuster movie screenings, the world is once again socializing and celebrating together. Diageo North America’s brands and ambassadors play a role in people celebrating which drives more than $10 billion in annual revenue for U.S. restaurants and bars3.

“As we look to the future of the hospitality sector in North America, it’s critical that businesses like ours double down on strategies and innovative programs that will lead to long-term success of the industry,” said Jayant Kairam, Vice President of Society at Diageo North America. “This is why we’re making deliberate investments in talent development and upskilling to support the next generation of entrepreneurs, operators and leaders in the field.”

Advancing representation in spirits and hospitality

With bars and restaurants rebounding, providing renewed access to employment and advancement, especially in underrepresented communities, is a critical part of Diageo’s Society 2030 ambition. The company sees supporting this community as essential to reinvent the industry post-pandemic. One of the leading ways Diageo has done that across the world for the last fifteen years is through its Learning Skills for Life (LSFL) program. 

Initially launched in 2008 in Latin America, LSFL has since grown to North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The program is free to those seeking employment in the hospitality industry, specifically people who may have faced barriers to education and employment, such as veterans, people reentering the workforce, those with disabilities and homeless individuals. Participants receive hands-on training that covers basic spirits and industry skills, food safety, and other bartending fundamentals, but they also undergo job readiness training, including a range of important professional skills such as interview preparation and conflict resolution.

In 2023 the program expanded and now operates in seven cities across the U.S. in partnership with community organizations like the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute and the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. Over the past two years more than 3,000 individuals have graduated, resulting in a job placement rate of 88%, with nearly 75% female participation and 89% ethnic diversity.

Building new local partnerships to support an aspiring workforce

Two new partners, the Washington Literacy Center in Washington, D.C. and the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, joined the program this year and recently celebrated the graduation of their first cohorts. While Learning Skills for Life is a global program, hospitality is inherently local. Partnerships with community organizations like these recognize the food and beverage sector as a vital gateway for economic opportunity. The organizations that Diageo North America partners with are plugged into local nightlife and hospitality sectors, allowing important relationship building and exposure to local employers.

Graduates of the Learning Skills For Life program in Chicago, IL

Graduates of the Learning Skills For Life program in Chicago, IL

“With the Learning Skills for Life program, we bring real-life scenarios that help ensure our participants succeed. In addition to bartending (mixology), this program includes financial literacy, coping with stress, focusing on delivery, customer service, short- and long-term goals and career planning in hospitality,” said Jimmie Williams, president and CEO of the Washington Literacy Center. You can see the change in our participants from the first day of class to the last. Most enter uncertain and questioning whether they have made the right choice, but they leave with skills, confidence, friends, redefined aspirations and strong job prospects.”

Learning Skills for Life is an organic extension of the Washington Literacy Center’s 60-year history of empowering residents of the Washington, D.C. area, by teaching basic job skills that helps them secure employment or continue their education. The program aligns with the Washington Literacy Center’s vision to provide support for marginalized adults and those facing financial and other barriers who are eager to work.

“Learning Skills For Life was a very beneficial program in the sense that I got to learn more about the alcohol industry and bartending as a service. I came out of it with a lot more knowledge and confidence in my ability to find a job and perform well,” said Chinedu Nwabuisi, graduate of the Learning Skills For Life program in Washington, DC.

“The program has totally changed my outlook on the mixologist world. I've learned a range of things, from what spirits are, how they are produced to the essentials of bartending and financial literacy. It has been a life-changing experience, and I was able to meet amazing people, instructors and future business partners,” said Leatrice Kersey, graduate of the Learning Skills For Life program in Washington, DC.

Learning Skills for Life supports YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Economic Empowerment Institute’s Entrepreneurship Center’s work to empower Black women-owned businesses, close the wealth gap and transform communities.

“We’re advisers, catalysts, coaches and cheerleaders, providing the mentorship and momentum to put dreams in motion. Diageo’s Learning Skills for Life program helps our organization transform lives across Chicago metropolitan areas by providing the necessary support, skills and employment opportunities in a high-growth industry, while empowering participants to start their own businesses and become self-sufficient contributors of their communities,” said Lois Wilkins, Director, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago.

“The staff was amazing and helpful. We learned the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to run our own mobile business. Through the program we also learned how to mix and serve, garnish, create your own drink and be confident about your work. This experience made me enjoy learning and even consider teaching about spirits myself. I would like to thank the facilitators and Diageo for helping me better my career in the hospitality business,” said Alvea Miles, graduate of the Learning Skills For Life program in Chicago, IL.

Learning Skills for Life is unique in that it doesn’t just focus on hospitality skills. Graduates can use the program as a launchpad into the professional world. The bar can be the entry to other areas of the hospitality industry, including management and entrepreneurship.

  3. Restaurant/bar revenue figures are estimates developed by Oxford Economics based on the sale of Diageo products.


Sign up for the virtual version of Learning Skills for Life

View further information on Diageo’s commitment to championing inclusion and diversity, and the company’s larger ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ 10-year ESG action plan.