OPEN Rapid Case Study: home.plate Hospitality Training Program – For Change Co.
About the organisation
For Change Co. is a Melbourne-run social enterprise working to eliminate youth homelessness in Australia. For Change Co. trains young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to build hospitality skills which helps them transition into further work or education. This helps the young people to break the homelessness cycle.
We spoke with
Co-founder and Managing Director
Training Program Manager
at a glance
For Change Co.’s hospitality training program, home.plate, runs for six to eight months. home.plate offers a holistic model. Participants are referred from Foyer Programs at youth housing service organisations, specifically Launch Housing and Melbourne City Mission. There are three-stages in the program to enable young people to work through real-world situations, through a gradually increasing set of challenges. They are also provided opportunities to step up through the ‘trainee takeover day’ exercise which further equips them for the broader job market. The three stages provide exposure to different hospitality contexts with increasing levels of difficulty. The three stages are:
- The Coffee Cart – at this location, young people are introduced to hospitality skills such as coffee-making, customer service, and point of sale operation.
- home.one – at this location they learn more skills as they work in a more demanding café environment
- home.two – at this busier café, young people work longer hours and more autonomously.
Trainees who have completed the home.plate program then go through the Open Shift Program at For Change Co. This supports their transition into employment that aligns with their long-term employment goals and provides economic independence. Trainees also get other opportunities, such as a series of financial literacy programs to support financial independence and improved knowledge of employment rights. Young people are also paid according to industry award-rates for the duration of the training.
COVID has reduced the capacity for intake into the program but when all cafes are fully operational, the program can train up to 18 young people per year, with nine young people in the program at any one time. Between 2020 and 2022, 37 young people have been trained by this program. The trainees are aged between 16 – 25 years and 52% identified as male, 45% identified as female, 3% identified as non-binary. Additionally, 47% of the young people have been from a multicultural background.
Along with the trainees, there are currently seven full-time employees. Employees run the program and facilitate training across the three venue spaces and support the young people throughout the program.
“I was facing a lot because I couldn’t find a job. So getting a job helped me be happier.
For Change Co. founders wanted to work towards ending youth homelessness by supporting young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Australia. They recognised that at-risk young people do not have the same education, employment or support opportunities, as they experienced from their family and community.
Initially, For Change Co. was working with a profit-to-donation model, where the profits of their sales from crêpes and coffee were donated to organisations working with young people experiencing homelessness. Developing from this, For Change Co. established a partnership with Launch Housing to create home.plate. The program started in an initially ad-hoc way and focussed on supporting young people build skills and become education and/or work ready, along with supporting young people to enter the rental market and create pathways out of youth homelessness.
The young people involved in the program come from diverse cultural backgrounds and have complex needs. For Change Co. provides access to training and upskilling to their trainers/staff, through organisations like the Centre for Multicultural Youth. This training enables staff to build the skills and offer tailored support to such diverse young people.
“Once I started working at For Change Co., I had more experience on my resume. It helped me get a job.”
- Stable housing is essential to engage at-risk young people — When the home.plate program started, it obtained referrals to young people who did not have stable housing through a youth housing provider. However, For Change Co. did not have enough resources to provide support to such young people. As a result, some young people who started initially could not participate consistently and were not able to complete the program. In response, For Change Co. adjust the program to require that young people applying for participation needed to have engaged with a housing organisation and have stable housing.
- Partnerships with other agencies provides a systems-based approach — For Change Co. has developed partnerships with Launch Housing and Melbourne City Mission to ensure their participants have access to the vital wrap-around services which underpin their successful completion of the program.
- Appropriate payment and tailored support — The program provides industry standard payments for the young people’s work with Homeplate. This is vital to ensure that young people feel engaged, and their work valued and respected. Additionally, flexible, and individually tailored support is also provided to ensure that young people can pursue their individual goals during the program. After completion, graduates the support continues with referrals and preparations for job application and interviews.
- Clear expectations work well for the young people — The team also learnt that it was important to set clear expectations about a participant’s time in the program right from the start. Creating an expected standard regarding the young person’s engagement and behaviour, allows staff to support them to succeed and transition out of the program to further employment.
- Well-resourced and managed trainee cafés — For the program to succeed, the team also ensured that the café locations were well-supported and ran seamlessly. This includes making sure that program is well resourced, and staff are trained to provide a tailored learning experience to the participants.
For Change Co. has developed a Theory of Change and a program logic. They have set up an evaluation framework and data collection systems which track trainee progression, through pre and post surveys completed by participants and other stakeholders. Since the inception of the program, COVID-related lockdowns have affected the operations. Thus, impacts have not been felt fully yet. As a result, the program has not been evaluated entirely. However, preliminary analysis of data gathered to date, shows that the program has already delivered benefits to its participants. These include an increase in social connection, work confidence, knowledge about worker rights and professional development. Overtime, it is expected that they will gain confidence and to support ongoing employment and develop financial literacy and independence, which will improve their quality of life.
Participants describe their experience with the program:
“I wasn’t very professional and a bit immature before. For Change Co. gave me an opportunity to grow and act professionally in the workplace. ”
“I got a few shifts at home.one after a lockdown and it really helped to connect with people and gave me peace of mind. Even before COVID, For Change Co. helped with my mental health because I could talk to the trainers. I see them as friends. They’ve always been really helpful and open to helping in whatever way possible.”
Initial data also indicates that 73% out of the 37 graduates have transitioned to further employment or education. Since 2020, 75% of these trainees were able to maintain employment for a period of 6 months or more. (Not unexpectedly, this metric has been impacted by COVID with increased instability in the hospitality industry during this time.) The impacts of the program and opportunities for improvement will be explored further through forthcoming full evaluation.
A Social Return on Investment (SROI) model of the home.plate undertaken by Social Ventures Australia found that overtime, a variety of outcomes are likely to occur as a result of the program. These include benefits to the trainees as described above, improved understanding of trainers and partners in meeting the needs of at-risk young people and causes of their challenges with housing, education and employment. Further, the program provides an opportunity for partner and commercial organisations to contribute to addressing youth homelessness and supporting the development of a future skilled workforce. It contributes to achieving government objectives through reducing demand on services such as in the homelessness and mental health areas and increasing young people’s readiness for employment.
“I think there aren’t many places where they let you make coffee first. At For Change Co., you’re learning how to make coffees from the first day.”
The team is aiming to open new cafés in Middle Park and Bellfield in 2022. With these, it is expected that the program will be able to double its intake capacity from 18 young people to more than 30 per year.
For more information, get in touch with Tenille Gilbert at email@example.com