Community Action Marin administered a paid Apprenticeship Program for those seeking a career in the food industry. The program helped participants acquire knowledge and skills to develop and launch a small food business or to join the larger food and hospitality industry. The program was launched in Spring 2022, in partnership with the County of Marin’s Healthy Eating Active Living Collaborative.
The Apprentice Program was a a 20 hour on the job training program including food and personal kitchen safety, sanitation, and knife skills training series, with placement with food industry professionals specializing in preparing food to sell at farmers markets and cooking meals for young children at Community Action Marin’s childcare sites. The program provided a chance for participants to learn invaluable business and marketing skills needed to operate a food business at local farmers markets. As this was a paid job training program, participants were paid an hourly wage of $18.50 and they received a grant upon program completion to help them launch their careers. Participants received support with completing their ServSafe Food Handler certification prior to being paired with a mentor.
During the program, participants were encouraged to work alongside a mentor from among the food businesses renting space at Community Action Marin’s Commercial Kitchen in San Rafael. Once the apprenticeship was completed, graduates received small business advising, career counseling, financial coaching, and other services to help ensure their success.
The first cohort of Food Industry Apprenticeship Program participants has demonstrated the importance of the program to support working families and encourage career development. When asked where participants saw themselves in three years in their food service careers, responses were uniformly positive:
“I see myself working in a kitchen and moving up in my position.”
“I see myself finding a job in the food industry and this program will help me get there.”
“I want to build my own business and get a pastry truck.
Ms. Alcaraz learned about Community Action Marin’s food services workforce program from her case worker. She was encouraged to connect with the organization based on the opportunity to gain skills and a food industry recognized certificate, all while being paid to work under a mentor.
Her dream was to start her own small business, a juice and fruit stand. At first she was hesitant to participate in the program as she is very shy and was unsure if she could commit because of other things happening in her personal life, including that, at the time, she was living in her car. Lack of reliable transportation was also a major barrier to Ms. Alcaraz’s ability to participate.
Eventually Ms. Alcaraz connected with the agency’s Community Alternative Response Engagement (CARE) Team to work toward housing stability and at that point she felt she had more support and stability to join the workforce program. In collaboration with her CARE Team advocate, Community Action Marin was also able to coordinate transportation to get her to training each week. She then passed the exam to earn her ServSafe Food Handler certificate and obtained part-time employment in the food services sector. Ms. Alcaraz described her journey and future aspirations:
“I had previously worked at a Baja Fresh Restaurant in food preparation, but didn’t have much opportunity to learn. The Community Action Marin training program taught me the importance of keeping the work area clean and sanitized, and always washing hands even if wearing gloves. Overall, the training has been so helpful. After taking the ServSafe Food Handler Exam, I am more confident in my job. I recently transitioned to a housing shelter after I was living in my car. The CARE Team supported me to attend the program and arranged for transportation for me to participate. My ultimate goal is to start my own juice bar place, working to save and eventually get my permits. Now I see the benefits of staying at the housing shelter and not to worry. They gave me hope.”
Griselda first learned about Community Action Marin because she needed support establishing her credit. She then found out about the apprenticeship program during an outreach event at a local farmers market. She was interested in participating and was inspired by both the mentors that would be available to work with her and the resources that could support her in learning how to start her own small business.
Griselda was ready to start the training in August, however, due to a lack of childcare, she was not able to join the first training. In October however, when the agency launched a second cohort group, Griselda was ready to join in.
“The outreach workers explained how the apprenticeship program could help me in my future. I wanted to do something where I could be certified for a higher-paying position. I am thankful for Community Action. They also helped me establish better credit. I have worked in numerous restaurants, but the time I really enjoyed working with food was when I decorated cakes. I was able to explore my creative side a lot. I want to learn more about how people run and operate a food business or sell food products. My goal is to gain as much knowledge on the food business as possible from an entrepreneurial perspective.”
15 individuals participated in Community Action Marin’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Food Service Professional Apprenticeship Program to build skills in the food sector. The goal of the project was to explore workforce development and social enterprises in the local food economy and to disseminate findings with which to inform improvements to our workforce development system.
Community Action Marin developed two training tracks for participants:
- Track 1- apprenticeships to build knowledge and confidence in the culinary sector; and
- Track 2- business development support for participants to explore starting their own food businesses.
Over the course of 16 months, participants, most of whom experienced significant barriers to employment, engaged in skills training, mentorship, and coaching to support their goal of either securing employment in the food services sector or building a small business. Below are highlights gleaned from the pre-and post-surveys which illustrate the impact this program had on the lives of participants:
- The goal for most program participants was to secure employment and to build their own business
- 4 participants started the program in temporary housing and by the end were in permanent housing
- 11 participants ended the program with a new certification.
- Schedules and lack of transportation were the top reported barriers to each person pursuing their careers
- In terms of support needed from Community Action Marin, responses ranged from housing support, childcare, transportation, and help with taxes
It’s wonderful to see someone be able to pursue a career in the food industry when that’s what they want to do. I know some of the apprentices would like to start a food business and go to local farmer’s markets with their products. This is the perfect venue for training and for the other supports they might need along the way. I’m excited to have them with us!