The speciality coffee sector is beginning to develop a problem; there is a shortage of staff and it seems to be getting worse, with understaffed coffee houses becoming the norm. There are also a large number of unemployed young people who would do anything for one of these jobs. It should be a match made in heaven, but unfortunately there’s a barrier in between the two: skill.

Although it may be classified as such, being a barista at a specialty coffee shop isn’t unskilled work. With the relatively high turnover in staff, it becomes almost impossible to train on the job as a busy cafe is trying to keep its head above water. This makes a strong coffee skillset invaluable. It becomes a case of the Catch-22 conundrum “experience required”. How do you get the experience if the position requires it to start?

One Church Brighton’s Gloucester Place building plays host to a number of social projects, including the Bloom Drop In and the Pro Barista Courses. The aim of these courses is to give those looking for a career in coffee the skills they need, both in terms of barista skills and soft skills. Bloom’s drop-Ins are from 12-3pm on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. As the name suggests, it is a service where anyone is free to drop-in and play around with coffee. They teach basic coffee skills, as well as working on developing employability skills. We spoke to Xav who gave us an example of this.

The drop-ins are a space where people come to feel safe, meet new people, learn about coffee skills and grow as people. The Bloom programme spans a minimum of 3 months and is broken down into 5 modules – technical skills, soft skills, mentoring, experience + certification. The technical training focuses on espresso drinks, filter coffee, customer service and workflow and is done at the highest standard and is SCA certified. The soft skills elements of the programme are largely influenced by psychology Professor Carol Dweck and her work around growth & fixed mindsets. Dweck’s research challenges the common belief that intelligence is bestowed upon people at birth and that one’s mental aptitude can’t be developed later in life. “The best thing to do is to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. This will offer a lifelong way to build and repair one’s own confidence.” We fold this research into coffee-focussed activities, both at the drop ins and on our Pro Barista’s Foundation Courses.  

Xav himself was taught by the Pro Baristas program, he now trains and passes on his knowledge to those attending the Bloom sessions and Pro Barista courses. Not dissimilarly, one of the distinguishing elements of the Bloom programme is that, upon completion, graduates are encouraged to remain a part of the community as alumni, engaging in further education and helping foster the development of the newest members.

The Pro Baristas program builds on the foundations laid by the drop in sessions with further training, hopefully leading to apprenticeships and internationally recognised qualifications. The end goal is for those involved is to find employment, so the course works with Brighton businesses to build an employability network. Institutions, such as Small Batch, don’t just support the courses by offering advice and supplies, but also employ those who have participated in the courses.

The final piece of the puzzle is The Real Junk Food Cafe, a pay-what-you-feel cafe that appears at the One Church on Fridays, offering hot food, coffee, and produce. The Bloom Drop In and Pro Barista Courses are excellent at providing someone with both coffee and employability skills, but they are unable to replicate a fast paced, cafe environment. It is one thing to prepare a pour-over, or an espresso, when you have ample time, but it is a different thing entirely to do the same thing under pressure. The Real Junk Food Cafe doesn’t just provide this busy working environment, but also offers those working the chance to develop vital organisational skills. The volunteers themselves decide how the “cafe” is set up and run, and the module nature of the workspace means the layout can easily be changed.

The high quality of the coffee at The Real Junk Food Cafe is comparable to many of Brighton’s artisanal establishments and gives vital experience to those eager to develop the many skills required to pursue a career in coffee. If you have an interest in Brighton coffee, we highly recommend visiting both the Bloom Drop In and The Real Junk Food Cafe, chatting to the many volunteers, and seeing how everything works in person. All are welcome.

The Real Junk Food Cafe is open from 1-3pm on Fridays at One Church Brighton’s Gloucester Place.

Bloom Drop Ins are from 12-3pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at One Church Brighton’s Gloucester Place.

For more information on Pro Baristas visit www.probaristas.com