The first group of senior year pupils from Aberfeldy’s Breadalbane Academy officially received their barista certifications from a new coffee academy, hosted by local roasters Glen Lyon Coffee.
The mentoring programme, which will be offered twice this year and twice next year to eight pupils at a time, is a stepping stone for young people into the world of work, particularly at a time where the hospitality industry is facing a severe shortage of staff.
The pilot project, led by director of Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters Jamie Grant, will award participants with an internationally accredited certification from the Specialty Coffee Association that will be recognised in speciality cafes across the world.
Following the delivery of the first part of the project, Jamie says the pupils will be spending the day working on their practical barista skills before being awarded their certificates.
“Today is the exciting bit where they’re actually getting trained up,” he said.
“After this, the pupils are going to go on to do work experience in some of our partner cafes in the area. It’s much more than just the training – it’s a full three-month mentoring programme.
“This next part means they’ll get face to face experience in cafes to build up their skills beyond just the qualifications.
“But today they’ll be here all day and have already done two days online. This is the culmination of delivering two certificates in coffee – one in introduction to coffee and one in barista skills.
“These certificates are internationally accredited by the Specialty Coffee Association. And it will be internationally recognised by employers in cafes, especially specialty cafes.”
Not on the curriculum
The course being offered by Jamie is not currently on the SQA curriculum. It has been set up independently to try and assist secondary school pupils into the working world.
“This is to help the pupils get into work and hopefully help them get their first jobs,” Jamie adds. “It’s not a qualification people can do at college – it’s independent of that and it’s not part of the SQA curriculum. But it’s vocational and very attractive to employers.”
Equipping senior year pupils for careers in hospitality is something that will also benefit the rural communities of Perthshire, reckons Jamie.
He continues: “In this area it’s very rural and there’s a very strong hospitality presence, so often it’s the first job people coming out of school here go into. The skills in hospitality are also really transferable so they can go on and get summer jobs here or abroad – the certifications are really relevant for finding work abroad as well.
“Customer service skills are also very important for young people now and particularly after the lockdowns there’s a lot of social anxiety, so it’s really getting people out there and getting them meeting face to face with customers and developing those soft skills as well.
“We think this has got real potential to scale up – it’s so relevant, particularly coming out of the pandemic and the lockdowns. We’re hoping to get to the stage where we can expand the project and engage with other schools in Perthshire.”
With numerous funders in place, including the Griffin and Calliacher Community Fund, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Basil Death Trust, the project has funding for two years, with a total of 32 pupils expected to have received the accreditation by the end of 2022.
“We’ve got funding for a two year pilot project, during which time we’re running two sets of two groups of about eight or nine pupils in each. So we have two groups this year and another two groups next year,” Jamie adds.
“We’ve helped put together a separate charity called Project Northern Lights, who are the main supporter. We didn’t want any crossover between what is basically a business and a charitable effort. There’s no commercial benefit for Glen Lyon Coffee whatsoever, it’s totally a charitable effort.
“The coffee academy was completely our idea. I’ve been working with Breadalbane Academy for about five or six years now as we’ve had a formal partnership with them in which we try to get the pupils into the roastery and with skills training.
“They’ve been engaged with our business for a while now, but really I wanted to take that a step further.”