Culinary Program Helps Black Youth Enter the Workforce 

By Selina McCallum

The Black Box Challenge has Black youth feeling the heat in the kitchen, instead of on the streets. The event took place on Wednesday, June 5th at Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre for participants to showcase their skills learned in the Kitchen Masters Program in the last three weeks. 

The 12 week program is an opportunity for Black youth between the ages of 18 and 29.

The Hospitality Workers Training Centre (HWTC) and CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals have collaborated since 2017. They partnered to produce the innovative culinary training program.

The Executive Director from HWTC, Mandie Abrams, explains why programs like these are vital. 

“Black youth across the province are unemployed at nearly two times the provincial rate, regardless of industry or educational attainment,” said Abrams. “This program combines the vocational training necessary to gain employment as well as coaching and mentoring from black leaders to empower and better prepare black youth on their journey towards employment.”

According to demand for labour in tourism in Canada will grow from 1.67 million jobs in 2007 to 2.12 million jobs by 2025. By 2025, a potential shortfall of labour demand for this industry is estimated to leave over 10% of positions unfilled

HWTC works directly with industry employers to identify entry level occupations and positions in the greatest demand. Programs are then designed and delivered to meet those needs.

“Currently, HWTC is working with employer partners to explore tools and supports that will assist entry level workers to advance within their workplaces,” said Abrams.

Chef Gartlet Taylor works with the youth and teaches them culinary skills. 

“I am very passionate about the work I do with the youth. For me it is like a collision with destiny, making a positive impact and connecting through the art of cooking and experiential learning,” said Chef Taylor. 

As one of the Second Harvest Kitchens, fresh and frozen foods are donated, which the participants and Chef transform into nourishing meals.

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The Chef and the participants make a wide range of diversified meals including Caribbean, North American and Asian or French. 

“Our system on a daily basis is replicated to an iron chef situation. Creating recipes and menus on the spot making quick and spontaneous decisions in the nick of time,” said Chef Taylor. 

The prepared meals are sent into the neighbourhood to feed persons in shelters and several program operations for the less fortunate.

The youth obtain relevant skills and certification, including food exposure trips, weekly challenges, and two weeks of unpaid job placements. 

They are very thankful for the program.

“Participants have expressed their continued gratitude and appreciation for the program as it allows them to make progressive strides to their growth, contribution to society and their personal independence,” said Chef Taylor. 

The Kitchen Program will run their last cohort in July 2019 and are looking for black youth between the ages of 18 and 29 that are interested in starting a career in the culinary field to come to an information session at Hospitality Workers Training Centre on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. 

For more information call 647-930-9518 or email training@hospitalitytrainingcentre.com .

Joel ZolaComment