HEART makes students job ready with 'Restaurant Day'
Tamara Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Since its inception, the Heart Trust/NTA South-west TVET institute has sought to make students' well-roundedness and job readiness a top priority. An example of such a move is with the monthly event held by students in the hospitality department called 'Restaurant Day'.
Restaurant Day is time set aside exclusively for the food and beverage and commercial food preparation students in that department. The students get an opportunity to showcase their skills and get hands-on experience in dealing with paying customers who are expecting value for their money.
"Every month, what we have done is to organise a day when the students establish a restaurant setting and prepare meals from scratch. Different persons are given different responsibilities and it is marketed to internal and external persons. Normally, we would do a 'dining only' that would cater to about 40 persons, but for this month, we are doing a dining and take out," said senior instructor and event coordinator Charlene Mohan.
Having started as a quarterly event in February of this year, Mohan said: "This gives the training team the opportunity to understand what it is like to operate a business as we are trying to incorporate the entrepreneurial aspect of it (in their training). Each trainee is exposed to menu set-up, menu costing, and is actually able, at the end of their tenure, to make a profit from what they have made. We currently have 55 hospitality trainees who operate on shifts."
For the directors at the institution, the programme, which will see an expansion in December catering to 400 persons, is a continuous step, along with other similar programmes, in the right direction.
"We are very convinced that while the technical competencies are those that will get you the job, it really is the social competencies that will help you maintain that job, and, with that in mind, we try to create opportunities for the trainees to engage in meaningful experiences as not everything can be taught or learnt in a classroom setting," noted director-principal for the institution Elaine Kentish-Halloway.
"It's a growth process ... we are looking to broaden it. It's not just food and beverage and commis chef that have activities. We have the industrial, electrical, and maintenance groups as well that are doing various repairs on campus and, as the year progresses, we'll be having more groups come on board such as the auto mechanics and administrative assistants," said Vanone Harper, head of section, training activities.
In a sophisticated setting with immaculately dressed servers, the diners were served a three-course meal with appetiser options - buffalo chicken wings or codfish fritters; main course - beef and shrimp kebab, roasted rosemary chicken or pineapple sautéed veggie mince, pineapple cilantro rice, and garden salad. For beverage, there was a 'mango surprise', and for dessert, warm sweet potato pudding with ice cream.
One measure of determining an event's success is having customers returning to the next exercise.
Diner Valecia Crew had this to say: "The service and the food is 'A' list. The previous service was quite good, and the ambiance was quite attractive. It was something that replicated a real-life restaurant. I'm actually more impressed today with the overall service - the welcome, the food. It's the kind of treatment you would get at a five-star restaurant, and I'd just like to commend them (the students) on the level of professionalism they executed."
Equipped with the necessary skills from the institution to do great work, chef student Christina Newman said it is her aspiration after completion this month to start the process of owning her own catering company, while student server Mekada Hendricks hopes to travel to Canada to perfect her skills.