Fifty Minute Classroom

Apr 22, 2019, 1:38
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50-Minute Classroom: Teaching Essential Skills

17 June 2014

Are you dooming your students to failure by not focusing enough attention on helping them find and keep jobs after graduation?

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

I hope you will endure a bit of self-promotion. I was asked by Mary Petersen of CAFÉ to lead a roundtable discussion at the upcoming Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City on the importance of teaching life skills and job skills to culinary students.

For those of you who have read my articles for a while, you know I adamantly believe that unless you teach your students job-searching skills, skills to keep the job, and basic life skills you are dooming them to failure. I have written a number of CAFÉ articles on this very subject:

1.     “Interview Skills,” March 2011

2.     “Help Your Students Keep Their Jobs,” May 2011

3.     “Teaching Students How to Get a Job, Part I,” June 2012

4.     “Teaching Your Students How to Find a Job, Part II,” July-August 2012

5.     “12 Things for Students to Know,” on how to work in a commercial kitchen, December 2012

6.     “Teaching the Value of ‘Real’ Networking,” May 2013

7.     “The 10 Hardest Things to Teach Young Culinary Students,” July-August 2013

8.     “Working in Teams Needs to Be Taught,” September 2013

9.     “Volunteering for Young and Old,” December 2013

At JobTrain, the vocational training program where I have taught for nearly 11 years, we have now created a 20-hour Essential Skills Course that combines life skills and job skills. Every student (not only culinary, but every student in every class) must take the entire program. Each class is two hours long and is taught by either an outside expert in the field who volunteers to come in or by a JobTrain staff member who specializes in that area. The topics include:

1.     Introduction to the Importance of Learning Essential Skills

2.     Goal Setting

3.     Behavior Modification

4.     Anger Management

5.     Personality Type and Conflict Resolution

6.     Résumé Development

7.     Interview Skills

8.     Job Readiness and Job Retention

9.     Communication Skills and Public Speaking

10.  Problem Solving

(Note: The above is the course-wide curriculum. My culinary students also get two hours per month of financial training. The San Mateo Credit Union sends in two or three people each month to teach my students: How to Open and Use a Checking Account, How to Recover from a Financial Disaster, Borrowing Basics, Establishing and Maintaining Credit, Budgeting, etc.)

If you aren’t comfortable teaching these subjects yourself, then let me suggest that you obtain volunteers to do it. I’ve never had a shortage of people—ranging from my boss (who does a great course on budgeting) to school counselors to job-placement people offering to come in for an hour or two periodically.

As I noted above, the San Mateo Credit Union comes in once a month to teach my students. I am sure that you could find a local credit union to do the same for you. Employment agencies, particularly ones that specialize in hospitality or foodservice, are great to ask people to come in and teach these skills. If you have a Technical Advisory Committee, work with its members to find people for you.

How to slice an eggplant, dice an onion, braise a pot roast, flip a sauté pan and make the mother sauces are all important. If your students can’t get and keep a job, however, what’s the point?

I teach one day a week in the San Mateo County Jail. The goal of this program is to introduce the honor inmates to possible job training and job opportunities. One recurring theme, however, runs true with the hundreds of inmates I have worked with: They had problems living in modern society.

If your students can’t live in modern society, then what’s the point of teaching them culinary skills? Yes, I know this is food for thought.


Chef Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain on the San Francisco Peninsula.