The International Shift at Parliament on King – a small cafe providing free hospitality training to refugees and people seeking asylum.
The International Shift program is held at Parliament on King, a small café on King Street in Erskineville, NSW. The International Shift provides free training to refugees and asylum seekers with the hope that participants will gain employment in the hospitality industry after the program. The International Shift focuses on the basics of running and working in a café by providing general hospitality training, barista skills, food preparation and food hygiene knowledge, and customer service know-how.
The International Shift program involves hospitality employees from Parliament on King and asylum seekers and refugees that are interested in participating. Most recently, the program has assisted refugees from Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The program currently trains six clients every five weeks.
The International Shift delivers a range of outcomes in 3 key areas:
- Practical job skills – Refugees and asylum seekers want to work, however, find it difficult to acquire employment without the appropriate training.
- Food culture – The International Shift program informs refugees and asylum seekers about typical Australian food culture including how food should be prepared and common foods in cafés. Understanding the culture of food can help refugees and asylum seekers connect to the community.
- Social outcomes – Refugees and asylum seekers sometimes find it difficult to feel a sense of belonging in Australia, which can result in mental health issues. The program helps create valuable social and professional contacts that help refugees and asylum seekers settle in the community. The program also helps local employees break down pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a refugee and asylum seeker.
Each training intake is for one day a week over 5 weeks. A qualified trainer with a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment supervises the training. On training days the café is open to the public, allowing participants to work and train in a ‘real world’ situation. On training days the café does not run for profit. Customers are told that it’s a training day and know that while the coffee and food will be perfect, it may take a little longer for service. In return the café sells everything at cost or at a discount – with any money made going back to the project to fund the training.
The program, whilst providing real employable skills to refugees and asylum seekers, also helps participants feel welcome and safe and contributes to their happiness. The International Shift is hoping to expand the program to offer more in-depth training in certain areas. They would also like to support placing graduates of the program into real jobs. In the coming months the program will allow graduates of the program to run the café one day a week as part-time employment.
- Developing a flexible training program that delivers outcomes to a group with very different competencies, levels of confidence and differing levels of English literacy. It’s been complex.
- Ensuring that all participants derive real value from the training, that each get what they need.
- It’s also been difficult organising and paying for the project using our own limited resources.
- The next challenge will be growing this into something that can provide employment and involving other businesses.
Advice for others
“This is a lovely and very fulfilling thing to do. It will make you very happy. My advice, if you are so inclined, you should try it. However, plan carefully. It’s complex.”