Crisis Skylight Cafe

Posted by editor 02/12/2013 0 Comment 7348 views

Tony at the Crisis Skylight Cafe (pic: Danielle Aumord)

Danielle Aumord dives into the training cafe at Crisis Skylight. //

The London-based Crisis Skylight Cafe is perched on Commercial Street in the financial heart of the city. As you peer through the windows it looks cosy, and in stark contrast to many of the local eateries this is a cafe with a mission. “The café was started as a practical employment project to further Crisis’s aim of ending homelessness,” explains Alana Cookman, Head of Cafés at Crisis. “With on-the-job training it becomes much easier for people to find a job… and this reduces the risk of homelessness. Our London Café, which is our flagship social enterprise opened in 2004, celebrates its tenth birthday next year.”

Crisis has two other café projects following the same format, in Oxford and Newcastle. Within the lively London hub the trainees are busy producing homemade food. They pride themselves on using seasonal, local and ethically sourced food and helping people get back into work.

One of those who have benefitted is Tony, who has just landed a full-time paid job at the Honourable Artillery Centre. After a period of homelessness, Tony began working at the Skylight Café. Here he gained qualifications in food safety, essentials of catering, first aid and barista training. Tony caught the eye of a hospitality recruitment agency: “I’m now working full time setting up functions, and doing bar work at the Honourable Artillery Centre,” he says beaming, whilst making a coffee. “I love being back at work.”  

The café set a target for 2013 of getting 30 people into paid employment.  And as the year draws to a close, they are very much on track. One of the key mechanisms of this project is to build employer links so that they can refer their growing number of job-ready trainees into paid work. “Witnessing people learn life-changing skills, make friends, challenge themselves in new environments, build confidence and get employment at the end of it is a thoroughly enriching experience for everyone involved,” says Cookman with a sparkle in her eye. As a social enterprise, they explore new ways of increasing income to fund the training programme through offering out their catering services to external clients.

“We also need to be constantly driven to improve the quality of the training programme to make sure the experience prepares people for work as much as possible,” Cookman concludes. And what better aspiration to have than to aim to improve upon a programme that already looks like it’s excelling? Potential trainees can self-refer; get a referral via the Crisis Employment and Services team or through a local charity for young ex-offenders called ‘Switchback’. Successful applicants receive all round support from a Crisis job coach with goal setting sessions and assistance with job applications. The team also look at how the trainees can be supported in other areas such as housing, recovery from addiction and mental health problems, if needs be, so after a stint here, these clients should be more than ready to face the outside world. 

See here for more information about the cafe.


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