Non-profit’s new coffee cart provides jobs for youth

  • People
  • Wednesday, 14 Nov 2018

Garcia, 19, a barista at El K-Fe, making specialty coffee drinks. Casa Familiar, a social services non-profit, has opened the coffee cart at the San Ysidro Health Center to create barista jobs for youth in the San Diego area. Photo: TNS

For the past two years, a non-profit in San Ysidro, California, the United States, has trained some 40 youth to become baristas. The hope has been to equip them with skills and experience to land a job.

But there’s a problem: barista jobs are scarce in San Ysidro, which is home to a single Starbucks store and one Coffee Bean location.

Now, Casa Familiar, the social services non-profit that runs the barista programme, has opened a coffee cart to create jobs for young adults who complete the training.

In addition to providing jobs, the cart will help fill a “need” for more coffee shops in San Ysidro, said Estella Flores, Casa Familiar’s youth programme supervisor.

The cart, named El K-Fe (pronounced “el cafe”), is located outside the San Ysidro Health Center. The hope is the location will be one of more to open across the predominately Latino and low-income community. The cart has employed eight individuals.

The creation of jobs is important in San Ysidro, where about 36% of teens ages 16 to 19 are unemployed and about 27% of 20- to 24-year-old adults are jobless, according to US Census Bureau data.

Casa Familiar launched the barista training programme in 2016 to address common issues young job-seekers face when trying to land their first jobs, such as a lack of experience.

The idea was to give trainees “a little bit of a competitive edge”, Flores said.

Barista training, held at a kitchen at the San Ysidro Civic Center, includes coffee roasting and extraction, and milk steaming and foaming. Participants also make trips to local specialty coffee houses and roasters, such as Bird Rock Coffee Roasters locations in San Diego.

The three-month programme also includes workshops and one-on-one coaching on resume-building, interview skills and financial literacy. Casa Familiar selects San Diego residents between the ages of 14 and 24 who come from low-income families.

Flores said the barista training programme, which she oversees, allows youth to get a feel for the coffee industry and decide if it’s a line of work they’re interested in. Regardless, she said, the skills they gain, such as customer services and teamwork, can be applied in other types of jobs.

Casa Familiar also runs a training programme that helps youth become so-called art docents, or guides who lead art museum tours.

A former barista trainee, Francisco Dominguez, said the programme was “essential and really helpful”.

The 19-year-old was hired to work at Casa Familiar’s new coffee cart. It’s one of two jobs that helps him pay for college.

Dominguez, who attends Southwestern College, works at the cart for four hours between classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a full shift on Fridays.

He said the flexible schedule “works with the schedules of students in the community”.

Flores said Casa Familiar hopes to open other coffee carts across San Ysidro, perhaps at the non-profit’s art gallery, The Front, and a small-scale housing development that will break ground in December.

“There’s a lot of potential with the programme,” an optimistic Flores said.

Casa Familiar might also consider opening coffee carts at other San Ysidro Health clinics. The non-profit, which provides affordable health services, has other locations in National City, Chula Vista, El Cajon and elsewhere in San Diego.

“There aren’t coffee shops available near our San Ysidro facilities for our patients or staff,” San Ysidro Health CEO Kevin Mattson said in a statement. “El K-Fe does much more than fix that problem. Most people can remember their first job and how important the lessons they learned were to them. We are proud to invest in this project benefiting our community.”

Dominguez, who helped set up the coffee cart before it opened on Sept 14, said he wants to be around “a long time” – long enough to help the programme expand to other locations. – Tribune News Service/The San Diego Union-Tribune/David Hernandez

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