Providence Row Catering Trainee Scheme: A blueprint for success, by Dom Gates

The last year has been a big year for Providence Row. A few weeks ago our Catering Trainee Scheme scooped second place at the prestigious London Homelessness Awards, in memory of Andy Ludlow

We’re over the moon to be receiving recognition for our innovative approach; an approach that we realised early on garnered strong, positive outcomes for our clients. Although the scheme focuses on food, I believe the heart of the success of the scheme is our investment in, and commitment to, positive risk-taking in a supportive environment. It was this risk taking that impressed the LHA judges.

We offer a personalised service which takes into account the challenges of rough sleeping and/or living with substance misuse or mental health issues. For people affected by these issues to be truly motivated , they need the opportunity to train, to be part of a team and to feel like they are moving forwards from day one.

For example, some schemes require participants to get clean first. We don’t. We just  ask that trainees engage with support staff to tackle these issues, whilst training. We find that, while on the scheme, clients reduce their drinking and drug-taking.

So with this in mind, and with £15,000 from the Awards in our back pocket,  we  are branching out. Replicating some of the key components of the catering scheme, we believe we can have the same success training people in horticulture, baking and building too.

Our brand new gardening trainee scheme is now available so those that our more green-fingered clients can pursue their training; growing and maintaining a working kitchen garden on our roof while also getting the support they need from our support workers onsite. The food we produce is used in our kitchen, and this binds all the trainees together as a community; growing, reaping and cooking food for the 30-50 rough sleepers who join us for breakfast and lunch each day.

With all our training schemes, our trainees are also working towards a qualification. With the gardening trainee scheme, they are working towards a Level 1 certificate in horticulture.  We’ve thought carefully about what trainees do after the course, and help pave the way in advance for ‘move on’ with advice on job search, CVs and interviews.

For those with a real interest and flair for baking, we have now developed a bakery training course, as part of Providence Row Bakery (our social enterprise and a real business, selling cakes and baked goods to local cafes and shops). This accredited scheme gives trainees real, authentic experience being part of a growing small business. There’s a tangible end-product, and customer service expectation, which is great experience for our bakers, who take a great pride in their work, and our products.

Our next idea will be building. But regardless of the subject the approach is the same: Giving as many people as possible to opportunity to train and develop, whilst receiving the support they are entitled to, and need, to succeed. The LHA has helped us do this.

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