From the outside, the Training Café looks like any other café. Step inside though and the feeling is something special.
The Training Café on the main street of Taumarunui is about more than good food and coffee. It’s about equipping local young adults and at risk youth with the life and work-ready skills they need to forge a productive path for themselves in the world.
It’s also the fruit of years of hard work by Taumarunui Christian Education Trust. The trust owns and manages the café, which provides on-the-job training for up to six otherwise unemployed young people at a time.
“We have young people with us for around six months,” says trust chairperson Raewyn West. “At first, it’s about teaching them to turn up to work regularly and on time. If you’ve never held down a full-time job, then these are part of the essential skills that people need to learn.”
From there, trainees progress onto washing dishes and clearing tables, food preparation and baking, serving customers, assisting the chef and eventually being in control of the meals.
“The best thing is watching a trainee’s self-confidence grow,” says Raewyn. “Most trainees go from us into other paid employment, or full-time training elsewhere, then return after a couple of years, and buy lunch in the café.”
Raewyn acknowledges the hard work involved in getting the café up and running. Five years later, though, and the Training Café has become a fixture of the town.
“We enjoy amazing support from the local community,” says Raewyn. “And many out of towners routinely stop here, on their way up or down the country.”
The café also enjoys a productive relationship with the local Work and Income office.
“We have employers calling Work and Income and asking when the next lot of café graduates will be available,” says Raewyn. “Having those work-ready skills gets our trainees the job.”
In 2015/2016, Trust Waikato was pleased to donate $15,000 towards the café’s operating costs.