6 October 2022
An Anglican community centre is equipping members of the broader community for work in the hospitality sector.
Christ Church Mission’s seven-week introduction to hospitality program has been helping people gain skills for the hospitality jobs growth area.
Trainer, program and volunteer coordinator Elaine Wilkinson said the course which has been running since 2019, sought to help people who had experienced some setbacks in life regain the confidence they might have lost.
Ms Wilkinson said after the course students could stay on as volunteers, or on to do another one that might put them on the path towards potentially higher qualifications.
“They might even pick up a job which has happened for several people,” she said.
Learning takes place largely in the mission’s commercial kitchen and kitchen garden on the premises of Christ Church St Kilda.
She said the course started in 2019 and participants learned how to work as a team, how to chop vegetables, food safety and of course how to prepare meals.
Some of those might include Greek comfort food made with fresh herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden to more simple fare.
But she said it was structured so that students also had the chance to understand the food industry.
She said there were also excursions where students were taken to different food venues and encouraged to think about things like the ambience, how welcoming staff were toward customers, and what happened when customers want to pay for their meals.
There was also a Thursday evening community meal at the church, which participants helped prepare meals for.
“We try to be creative in the way people learn, and make it more than just all theory,” Ms Wilkinson said.
She said when the program had run in between the pandemic lockdowns, café and restaurant owners from the St Kilda area had been invited to a three-course meal prepared by the students.
They got to see their enthusiasm and talent, and a couple of places offered the participants a few weeks of work experience.
Although COVID restrictions had limited what could be done afterwards, Ms Wilkinson said they hoped to get that part of the program back on track.
Ms Wilkinson who has a background in hospitality and horticulture, as well as training qualifications, teaches the students for a few hours on a Monday.
She said some participants were from marginalised backgrounds or had become disengaged, or could have a range of learning needs, while others absorbed the program very easily.
She said she preferred to keep the group small at about six people per term, so she could get around to give each one support.
But Christ Church St Kilda parishioners also provided mentorship, Ms Wilkinson said.
They gave general assistance to people or just engaged in conversation with them to perhaps help them feel more comfortable about getting job ready, and then also helped hem out with food service at the Thursday evening community meals.
Program partner Port Phillip Community Group also helped students with preparing resumes and finding jobs at the end of the program, Ms Wilkinson said.
Having started in hospitality at a difficult point in her own life, Ms Wilkinson said she often told students her story to encourage them to view hospitality as a serious pathway potentially for them, as well.