The Crisis Skylight London Café is providing a route into a hospitality career for homeless people and ex-offenders. Café manager Cassia Weaver explains the training on offer to Matilde Casaglia.
How did you start offering cooking and barista training at Crisis Skylight London Café to homeless people and ex-offenders? We started offering day-to-day work-based training to homeless people interested in getting into the catering industry in 2006. The idea is to give them an opportunity to get into work by providing professional and high-standard training.
How is the training structured? We take groups of six people, who are trained by four members of the regular staff for three days a week.
Each group stays with us for four months. Not only will they be able to learn professional barista and chef skills, team work and communication, but they will also gain venue hire management, online marketing through social media and events organisation abilities.
How do the trainees contribute to the business? They prepare high-quality creative coffee and lattes for customers and take part in designing the dish of the day. During the Olympics and Paralympics we have used some of their country-of-origin recipes as dish of the day, such as those from USA, Brazil, Poland, Ghana and Morocco.
What is the next step once they've finished the training course? Most of them will find a job at café chains, restaurants, sometimes hotels. Mainly their first role will be barista, kitchen assistant or sous chef.
We get two people into work every month. Our trainees now work at Pret A Manger, Wagamama, Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, Waterhouse and other well-known chains.
How do you make it clear to customers that you are a social enterprise? Customers usually don't know, unless they read the pin board, where we give information about the project.
We want to maintain a professional environment, where people will come for the high quality of the food and the barista's impressive skills. We hope that by offering customers a good experience they will come back for more, and a busy venue is the right environment to provide effective training sessions.