One ACRE Cafe plans new work training co-op

Sue Guinn Legg • May 27, 2014 at 2:50 PM

One ACRE Cafe, the restaurant on West Walnut Street where everyone eats regardless of their ability to pay and works for their meals if they need to, is launching a new jobs cooperative to be conducted in partnership with other local nonprofit organizations serving people in need of work, training, experience and assistance securing future employment.

Jan Orchard, executive director of the nonprofit cafe, said the co-op was in the planning stages at the cafe when Michael Borders, a public administration graduate student at East Tennessee State University with a background in restaurant management, stepped up to donate his 300-hour student internship to getting the program off the ground.

The co-op’s goal is to provide its participants with three months of comprehensive, hands-on training in all facets of restaurant management, five hours a day, five days a week, beginning at $7.50 an hour and increasing to $9.50 an hour by the end of the training period. The program will conclude with resume writing and job search coaching and a letter of recommendation for graduates to take with them to potential employers.

Using his experience in the food and hospitality industry, Borders created the training module the co-op participants will follow with a checklist of skills to be mastered under the direction of the cafe’s administrator, executive chef and team of skilled volunteers who, like him, donate their expertise to keeping the nonprofit restaurant in the black.

Applications for the program will be solicited in June from other nonprofit organizations serving people in the community who are in need of job training and work experience to add to their resumes.

At 25 hours per week for three months, Orchard said the program will require $3,500 in wages per participant. Individual sponsorships will be needed to launch and maintain the training. And with enough community support, Orchard said the cafe’s hope is to have multiple participants rotating through the phases of training simultaneously. Area restaurants willing to employ the One ACRE Cafe Co-op graduates upon their graduation are also being sought.

“It’s a lot easier to find a job when you have a job and when you have someone vouching for you,” Orchard said. “Our hope is, there a lot of restaurants in the Johnson City area who could look to us as their recruiter.” Like the cafe itself, community involvement will be essential to the co-op’s success, and by partnering with other nonprofit service agencies, Orchard said mutual goals can be met.

“Our first pool of resources is our own pool of volunteers here at the cafe and our next tier is other (nonprofit service) groups that concentrate on career placement.”

More information about the program will soon be available online at www.oneacrecafe.org and at the One ACRE Cafe Facebook page or may be obtained by contacting Orchard at 483-0517 or jan@oneacrecafe.org,

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