Giving the jobless a hand up

Zolani Mayile, a Ground UP Academy graduate, providing freshly brewed coffee to all who attended the hand over.

Tweaking an old proverb about teaching a man to fish, a Claremont-based non-profit is helping unemployed people claw their way into the job market by training them to do something a little more fragrant: brew coffee.

Learn to Earn has been fighting unemployment for 28 years by giving people skills to land in-demand jobs, and now it has been given a shot in the arm by the Rotary Club of Wynberg.

The club has spent the past year raising money for the centre and late last month it presented a cheque for R585 000 to Learn to Earn’s Ground UP Academy and Cafés at the organisation’s Belvedere Road office.

The funding, according to Rotary Wynberg’s Justin Schonegevel, was realised through the club’s partnerships with the Rotary Foundation, the Rotary Club of Tavistock Devon in Britain, Rotary District 1175 in Britain and the local Rotary District 9350.

Some of the money will be used to train 26 unemployed adults with basic barista skills.

The eight-week barista course isn’t just about making coffee it also teaches some valuable life skills. Another portion of the funding will go towards fitting two trailers used by the barista graduates with coffee-making equipment including industrial coffee machines, grinders and point-of-sale equipment.

Graduates who are accepted onto the programme begin work at the “flagship” trailer at Rondebosch Boys’ High School, where they work and train until they are well-grounded in
business operations and then move on to their own unit to manage.

The barista academy started in 2015, and its training is accredited by the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe (SCA). “Training people to become baristas is a reaction to the market. It’s important that we train people in a skill that is needed,” said Learn to Earn spokeswoman Barbara Litt.

The centre, she said, trained 500 people in a range of market-related courses each year.

“We don’t receive much sponsorship, so we rely on churches or Rotary groups for support and those who buy coffee when they see us,” she said.