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CHEF'S TABLE: Pre-apprenticeship program cooks up success

'The restaurant industry stands as a diverse and inclusive field, open to individuals from all backgrounds and cultures,' says food columnist

“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats

The dog days of summer are here and it's hard to believe. It seems like a short while ago we had just begun our summer semester, but now the countdown is on to the end of classes.

A short break before our fall semester and we will see a whole new influx of fresh faces ready and eager to learn.

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this ebb and flow of the academic year for 13 years now at Georgian College. I can honestly say it’s been one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of.

Every semester I get to see all the anticipation in the eyes of those seeking the promises of something better. Things that only an investment in continuing education and personal development can provide.

I never really considered this, but now It seems I’ve now reached a point in my career when the students surpass and becomes the teacher. I love being able to stay in touch and watch where our grads get to in their lives. It has been a privilege to share in so many special moments, new beginnings and personal milestones along the years.

Each of these would not have been possible with that first step by someone looking for an opportunity.

For those looking to experience more, Georgian College has a program or class for just about everyone.

The thing I love is that our experience offered is first and foremost a “hands-on” education and development of skills for the employers and industries here in our region.

Many come to us through the traditional route: Completed high school, maybe some work experience and wanting more … but what about those who may have not had the best start to their academic career, or the ones who have struggled to figure out what path they will chose.

That’s where programs like the pre-apprenticeship assistance cook program come in. Focus Employment Services partners with the Learning Centres and Georgian College to provide 18 weeks of education and training to students who may not otherwise be able to complete a college training program.

Whether they are looking for work, or looking to build workplace skills Focus can provide expertise and help at no cost.

Focus Community Development Corporation is a community-based, non-profit organization established in 1985 as a youth services provider. Today, its purpose is to enhance employment and training opportunities for southern Simcoe County.

In 1987, additional employment services such as employment and career counselling, job search, job postings, resume and cover letter assistance, career decision-making, and employment workshops were added to the organization, equipping them with a variety of services to best serve those in need here in our community.

They are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training, and Skills Development to deliver employment supports to the southern Simcoe County area, including Alliston, Angus, Beeton, and Tottenham. With a recent expansion into virtual services, the corporation is now looking to help those outside of our immediate area find the right job as well.

As our contribution to the partnership Georgian College hosts the pre-apprentice assistant cook program. This is a free program that prepares students for the culinary industry.

Our students receive all the bells and whistles needed to excel in the culinary industry. This Employment Ontario program is funded by the government of Ontario, which allows Focus to provide the students with uniforms, knife kits, and non-slip shoes and transportation all at no cost to the participants.

The classes that are provided cover Level 1 cook training at Georgian College. The topics included are fundamentals of cooking, basic baking and pastry skills, basic hospitality management principles and food safety training certification.

Whether you dream of working at a Michelin-star restaurant, setting up your own trendy cafe, or working in any other culinary capacity, taking on a cook’s apprenticeship will be an incredible stepping stone toward a rewarding career as a skilled chef.

Participants of this program are enticing to employers because they know what they're doing, making on-boarding a breeze. They also come with an additional bonus of having wadges partially subsidized during the 10-week placement period after graduation from the training sessions.

If you are interested in this program either as a participant for 2024 or as an employer looking for your next great hire, I encourage you to reach out and connect with Angela Adams, the co-ordinator for the Focus pre-apprenticeship program, at 705-435-9821, ext. 1038, [email protected], on Facebook or on Instagram

The restaurant industry stands as a diverse and inclusive field, open to individuals from all backgrounds and cultures. It embraces the talents and potential of everyone, whether they are just starting their journey in the culinary world or seeking a lifelong career.

Over the years of supporting this program, I have seen so many successes. I hope that every student that has taken the chance to come through our kitchens are proud of the work they have done. The skills they have acquired, and the lessons learned will serve them for the next course to be served.

It’s been a very humbling and rewarding experience to be able to teach students not only to “fill a pot,” but to help them find the spark and light the fire that only a career in the kitchen can provide.

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Daniel Clements

About the Author: Daniel Clements

In his bi-weekly Chef's Table column, Daniel will be looking at everything from local crops and trends in the business to seasonal delights and the local restaurant scene
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