Youth employer partners: Farestart’s job training program empowers local workforce

At first glance, Farestart is a regular café in the Pacific Tower that serves delicious foods and coffee. However, Farestart’s Café houses a hands-on job training program that employs youth year-round. The youth employment program is one of the many programs that Farestart funds. Farestart has a few other locations around Seattle that employ different populations; there is an adult culinary program, youth culinary program, a youth barista program, and a new food service apprenticeship program. The summer internship program then pulls students from the youth culinary program for summer employment.

Farestart’s Cafe employs youth ages 14-24 through both its regular eight-week youth employment program and an additional summer internship program. Farestart populates its students through the Interagency Academy, a credit retrieval school in Seattle . Farestart’s eight-week program has three goals; academic achievement, social skills, and job

Farestart works directly with the Interagency Academy to confirm the students are continuing their academic studies while working. If the student shows up late to work or school, there is a deduction in their stipend for the day. The program allows students to recover a semester worth of credits in an eight-week period. The students who went through the initial eight-week program are then considered for the summer internship program. Many of the students would be unlikely to have the opportunity to get a summer job otherwise.

Farestart staff want their interns to feel a sense of self-worth. Many of the students who go through the program are considered “opportunity youth” or “at risk teens,” and these terms can be unintendedly harmful and destructive to the self-image of the people involved. Farestart’s program, however, offers a moral boost. For the students, an improvement of interpersonal skills begins within the student’s perception of themselves. Students can develop a different perspective of themselves through their work by being treated with respect and dignity by their employers. They’re able to take what they learned in the program to the real world, even if their future does not involve culinary arts. This program gives the students the structure they need to flourish in any field. The interns time management skills, responsibility and interpersonal skills were sharpened through their school-work life balance, group dynamic and customer service experience.

Kelvin Washington, the Youth Culinary Training Program Supervisor, implemented “reality pedagogy,” into the work their interns do. Reality pedagogy takes the students into an environment that they aren’t regularly exposed to, to shows them how different their reality can be. Washington describes this as “giving the students the opportunity to speak to people who wouldn’t speak to them on the bus.” They take the students on field trips to five-star restaurants, including Marination Station, Tom Douglas’s restaurants, and Theo Chocolate. By taking the students out of their everyday reality, the staff is broadening the perspective of their interns.

To create a morale boost and a sense of community among the cohort, Washington created “Fun Fridays.” Fun Fridays are meant to bring a bit of the students’ cultures to the kitchen they’re working in. The students are asked to bring the recipe of a dish from their culture, and they’ll make it at the restaurant.

Because job placement is another aspect of the program, many students are given job opportunities after the program is over. After graduation, one student was offered the employment at  Cream, a local small business. The student was the first employee the company hired, after the owner –that student has gone on to create ice cream flavors and patents for the business.

To businesses who are looking to create similar programs, Farestart’s biggest piece of advice is to give someone a chance. The person that is hired is going to be molded by that experience, so treating them with respect is of utmost importance.

Creating a youth employment program isn’t just valuable to the interns, it also aids the businesses that participate in the program. They help the business, and the business helps them. It’s a mutually beneficial program, and generally beneficial to the community. The business is provided with good work from the students, and the students are provided with skills and experience. The community also benefits when the local workforce that is trained.

Interested in hosting interns? Your business may be able to do so through the Office of Economic Development’s Internship Program. Businesses may also offer other career-connected learning opportunities here. You can learn more about the City’s workforce development efforts by checking out our website or emailing us at oed@seattle.gov.