|It’s all hands-on, in the kitchen, for students at Cire Community School’s spanking new hospitality training centre at its Yarra Junction campus. The much-anticipated facility was completed just as the COVID-19 restrictions commenced, so students were super keen to start cooking up a storm when they were given the green light recently to return to campus in stages.
Cire has invested more than $600,000 in the project, a massive undertaking for the not-for-profit but a very clear demonstration of its commitment to providing positive and realistic career pathways for students and also the broader community. Cire CEO Gus Seremetis described the project as a real stimulus and a tremendous positive for the whole region, especially given the impact of COVID-19 at so many levels in terms of health and social and economic wellbeing.
‘Cire Community School offers vulnerable young people a positive alternative to mainstream education. The new centre has given our students so much to look forward to and also provides the community with a new resource to create employment pathways and community/social interaction, connection and support’, she said. ‘We are now in an economic
recession but we still need to look forward and give our young people hope in the future.’
Ian Seppings, VET/VCAL teacher responsible for hospitality training at the community school, said the new facility provides students with exciting new opportunities for learning real life hospitality knowledge and skills.
‘The students helped unpack the equipment and set up the training stations which has given them a them real ownership and new sense of pride … I’ve never seen students so enthusiastically wash, dry and put away their dishes!’ remarked Ian who is a chef by profession. ‘With all this
COVID stuff, we’ve been waiting a long time for our first practical session. It’s really exiting, exclaimed one student while another added: ‘The kitchen
just looks so professional… Being in this space and wearing my uniform, just gives me so much more confidence.’
The facility comprises a state of the art commercial kitchen with eight fully-equipped training stations to accommodate up to 15 students, a dedicated area of coffee machines for barista training, plus a spacious outdoor deck and landscaped gardens with vegetable beds to support the hospitality program’s emphasis on ‘paddock to plate’ and healthy eating. It is hoped the facility can eventually be used to cater for internal and external functions and events, while the deck will provide a great gathering space and possible location for a social enterprise, similar perhaps to the pop up cafe run by students at Cire’s Chirnside Park Community Hub.
Ed McGettigan, President of Tourism Network Yarra Valley, has welcomed the new facility and commended Cire’s vision. Confident the tourism and hospitality sector would re-emerge to a new level of normality, whatever form that may take, he said the facility was a real injection of confidence in the future. He said it would be the drive of many benefits to the broader community, economically, socially and emotionally as well as the students themselves.
‘If young people have skills sought by employers and career pathways with local opportunities, it gives them a reason to stay in the region rather than move to bigger centres for work, away from their families and support networks.’ Ed suggested. ‘Apprentice wages are low and barely cover the cost of accommodation in bigger centres. Where possible, staying with family works much better while you are starting out.’
Ed said it was important for young people to be independent when the time was right, and gain experience away from home, with the possibility of returning to the region in the future, upskilled and well-placed to make their mark in the local tourism and hospitality and industry.
He flagged that he will be discussing Cire’s project with the TNYV membership and encourage them to support the venture, whilst considering the potential for work experience opportunities and support wherever possible, as they move forward post COVID-19.