A 28-week Introduction to Barista Skills course is being piloted at Barrhead High School by social enterprise company Greenhouse Community.
The course teaches pupils from S3 to S6 about the origins of coffee and how it’s grown as well as the ethics of the coffee trade, including where coffee importers source their beans and how sustainable growers in less developed countries can work with companies to ensure they’re paid a fair price for their harvest.
The latter part of the course includes a work placement where pupils are given on-the-job experience and tutored on punctuality, independent travel and dealing with members of the public.
Greenhouse Community provides catering facilities for local authorities, public bodies and private employers, offering training and employment opportunities for staff with learning difficulties and mental health issues.
Dr Ciaran McMorran, the company’s training manager who designed the course, said: “Commercial coffee chains have their own, in-house training schemes but nobody has done barista training in schools until now and so most people who apply for jobs in cafes have no knowledge or experience of the industry.
“The course is by no means a soft option and trainees face many difficult challenges. It’s one thing being able to know how to make a coffee but working in a high-pressure environment is not for everybody. We’ve had trainees who really enjoyed making coffee but realised after their placement that working in the hospitality industry is not for them. The most difficult skill is being able to work under pressure.”
He added: “There has been a huge demand for places and we’re confident that it will be taken up by thousands of pupils in schools across the country.”
At the end of the course, pupils are also taught ‘soft skills’ such as how to prepare a CV, apply for a job and behave in an interview situation.
Linda Clinton, Developing the Young workforce co-ordinator for East Renfrewshire Council, said the course had proved extremely popular.
She said: “It’s like magic dust. Because coffee is so fashionable at the moment, the young people can relate it to the jobs market because they see it advertised so often.
“We saw immediately its value in helping us to fill a gap. We’d like more local employers to come forward and provide work opportunities for our young people.”
Beth Wood (16) left Barrhead High School at Christmas to begin a vocational course with the aim of helping her find a job as an air hostess. She began the Introduction to Barista course in March as a way of adding to her skillset.
“I’m really enjoying the course and it’s done wonders for my confidence,” she said. “Working as an air hostess means dealing with the public every day and serving them food and drinks and this course hits several of those buttons.
“I’d say the most important thing for me has been learning how to engage with customers and colleagues, taking orders and following instructions.”
Aaron Murray (17) left Barrhead High School last year and has spent several months on the Introduction to Barista Skills Course, learning in the vocational kitchen at his old school and on work experience at the Greenhouse Community Café at Barrhead Foundry.
He said: “I don’t even drink coffee and neither do my friends, so I don’t spend any time in coffee shops. But when I heard about the course it seemed like an interesting thing to learn and so I thought I’d give it a go.
“The most challenging thing for me is not the technical aspect but more the human engagement side. I’m a naturally shy person and putting myself out there doesn’t come easily. The course has forced me to engage with members of the public and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is.”