ProStart® is a nationwide, career-building program for high school students created by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and implemented in Iowa by the Iowa Restaurant Association Education Foundation (IRAEF). With national and local support from industry members, educators, the IRAEF and NRAEF, ProStart reaches more than 150,000 students in 1,900 high schools across all 50 states, Guam, and Department of Defense schools in Europe and the Pacific.

The ProStart program blends classroom learning with industry experiences, giving students a platform to discover new interests and talents to open doors for fulfilling careers in the hospitality industry. From culinary techniques to management skills, ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-life experience opportunities and builds practical, transferable skills and a long-lasting foundation for the future.

Students who have completed the requirements of the ProStart program are awarded an industry-recognized certificate – the ProStart National Certificate of Achievement (COA). To earn the certificate, students must pass two National exams, demonstrate proficiency of more than 50 foundational skills, and work a minimum of 400 mentored hours. Students who earn their COA are eligible for NRAEF scholarships and course credits at more than 70 of the country’s leading hospitality and culinary arts institutions including these Iowa schools:

  • Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College, Ankeny
  • Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa
  • Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs
  • Western Iowa Tech Community College, Sioux City
  • Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids

ProStart students gain experience and recognition in several ways:

Classroom ExperienceStudents learn fundamental culinary and management skills in the classroom. Many university hospitality programs accept ProStart courses for college credit.

Mentored Work ExperienceStudents receive mentor support, character development and real-world skills that give them a head start toward a career in the industry.

State ProStart Invitational:Students participate in a culinary and management competition in effort to represent Iowa the National ProStart invitational.

National ProStart Invitational:Students put their skills to the ultimate test in the National ProStart Invitational. This demanding culinary and management competition invites top students to represent their state, with winning teams competing for scholarships.

For more information on the ProStart program, visit

*ProStart is supported across the country by state and national donors. To learn more about the national program check out the NRAEF website. To support Iowa’s program contact the Iowa Restaurant Education Foundation at 515-276-1454.