CUSTOMER SERVICE AND CULINARY TRAINING PROGRAM
Forge City Works trains more than 25 people per year at the Kitchen on Broad Street since 2009 and helps them find jobs. About 25 Hartford residents with barriers to employment learn back-of-house kitchen skills and customer service skills in our café setting. In the last year, more than 90% of participants have completed training. 75% have gone on to jobs or are working their way through internships to permanent placements. Trainees earn minimum wage while they learn on the job with us, and we have seen that interning at another employer increases their chances of retaining employment when they are placed. Our professional history as culinary business professionals and small business owners enables us to speak the same language with employers. Our unique social enterprise model raises public awareness in the community, and we have built many impactful relationships over our decade of professional training.
We focus on individuals with barriers to employment including, recent incarceration, opportunity youth, housing challenges and past addiction. Participants earn minimum wage working 20-25 hours/week for ten to twelve weeks while learning food preparation, knife skills, customer service and sanitation. Trainees can earn the industry-standard ServSafe Food Handler certification. Our program works on personal and professional development through virtual learning, classroom workshops, and primarily hands-on training in The Kitchen. Working in The Kitchen café, learning customer service and culinary skills in a real work environment helps setting themselves up for success in their future internships and jobs.
Graduates are competitive for jobs in restaurants, cafeterias, fast casual, and other commercial kitchens, such as grocery stores that prepared food. We maintain an 85% success rate in achieving permanent full time employment for our graduates.
Forge City Works remains focused on providing training for Opportunity Youth (ages 18-24 who are not in school and un/under-employed) because there are 6,000 OY in Hartford. Twenty-two percent of Hartford young people ages 18-24 have not finished high school. Unemployment among young people is two to three times higher in the general population, and among people of color unemployment is often twice as high. Re-connecting these young people to a productive future is critically important not just for the individual but also for our city and state.
An important note is the pipeline into the program, so that the candidates we accept are ready to take advantage of what we offer and are ready to engage in full-time work. Building relationships with agencies that provide support services to our trainees allows us to focus on job training and job placement. We hold regular information sessions for potential participants to provide an overview of the training and job expectations; individual meetings with the social service agencies, shelters, and other organizations which provide support services, and broader breakfasts hosted quarterly for case management workers so that they remain consistently aware of our program, what we expect and what we offer.
We are developing a higher-level employer led culinary career pathway to break through the racial and gender barriers that are ingrained in the industry and achieve access to middle income jobs for area residents. Jobs are a key pathway to more stable lives, and culinary jobs are a way for people to improve their lives even without higher education.