Barista Magazine

OCT-NOV 2017

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 78 of 115

O U T R E A C H T O I N M A T E S P R O F E S S I O N A L P E E R T R A I N I N G spirit has also inspired companies to seize opportunities to create and formalize content in a way that is methodical, effi cient, and to a tangible, purposeful end: While the seat-of-their-pants approach defi nitely has its charm and its place, there has also been a rise in education programs and professional development that, while still open and generous at the core, tends toward a more practical or perhaps disciplined application. OUTREACH TO INMATES Disciplined is perhaps almost too apropos a term to describe the training program run by Coffee Crafters Academy in Columbus, Ohio: a "social enterprise" established in 2014 that offers barista training and work opportunities to individuals within the prison system in several medium-security correctional facilities in Ohio, as well as providing job-placement assistance upon the inmates' release. The organization runs cafés in prison facilities in the greater Columbus area, and also offers fi nancing and assistance to program "graduates" interested in beginning their own coffee businesses upon release back into civilian life. Nick Hirsch, managing director for Coffee Crafters, says that the inspiration "was born out of a need that we felt within our transitional housing community. Individuals coming out of incarceration were fi nd- ing it very diffi cult to secure steady and fair employment, which is criti- cal for a successful transition. There just weren't enough people willing to extend job offers in the local community." The idea of both creating and fulfi lling opportunities for folks transitioning out of incarceration seemed, to Coffee Crafters' founder and CEO Michele Reynolds, as the most obvious, sustainable, practical, and woefully overlooked way of approaching recidivism. The Academy is thorough, demanding, and, yes, competitive: At press time, 37 inmates were employed in the operation's cafés, and went through a rigorous hiring sequence before being given the proverbial keys to the shop. Once enrolled, Nick says, "Our resident employees learn all about the history of coffee and how it is produced, from bean to cup: coffee varietals, processing methods, roasting, making espresso, hand-brewing methods, etc. We also lead them through the ServSafe Food Handlers training curriculum to educate them on safe, clean, and healthy food-handling practices. Upon completion of the training program, the vast majority of our time is then spent on developing their soft skills in areas of teamwork, leadership, and communication." PROFESSIONAL PEER TRAINING While the environment might not be typical, the curriculum itself sounds remarkably similar to some of the best-known and best-re- spected professional-development programs in the country, like the one offered by Counter Culture Coffee. The Durham, N.C.–based roaster has built an exceptional reputation for itself as one of the leading coffee-education resources, though recently, the changing nature and tenor of the marketplace has caused some of the company's educational opportunities to evolve as well. (Full disclosure: I was an employee of Counter Culture's for six-and-a-half years, much of which was spent in the education department developing and administering content.) Up until about two years ago, Counter Culture's curriculum was posted online en total, and anyone—wholesale customers, competitors' customers, competitors themselves, even home baristas—could sign up and take classes. The result was, at times, both blessing and curse: Classes were lively and diverse, but there were also distractions such as professionally irrelevant questions ("How can I make latte art on my home machine?") and the confusion that comes from having to compro- mise on language and presentation with a roomful of baristas whose training and experience is all over the map. In response to increasing demand from wholesale customers, as well as an increasingly compet- itive marketplace, Counter Culture has shifted its education focus so that labs and formal training exists solely for exclusive wholesalers. A new retail-consumer education track fi lls the need for home coffee 79

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