The Cook, The Chef and Us program arming students with the skills to succeed

QUALIFIED: Year 11 students Adam Cassar and Josh Barry say the program has benefited them enormously and helped them to get their first jobs. Photo: Hayley Elg
QUALIFIED: Year 11 students Adam Cassar and Josh Barry say the program has benefited them enormously and helped them to get their first jobs. Photo: Hayley Elg

STUDENTS at Daylesford College are being armed with the essentials for a career in hospitality. 

The Cook, The Chef and Us Program, coordinated and delivered by Hepburn Health Service (HHS) and Daylesford College, is funded through the Alcohol and Drug Foundation through the Local Drug Action Team, with the aim to engage communities in primary prevention strategies. 

The program focuses on mental wellbeing and harm prevention by utilising different sectors of hospitality as a means to engage young people in their education in a non-traditional way.

Vice Principal Penny Ellis said that a different version of the program was run in 2009, but had been running in its current form for three years.

“It creates links in the community with the school,” she said. “It’s about trying to keep the kids engaged in their education, so whether it be high achieving students who may need another opportunity or kids who aren’t enjoying school and have low attendance rates – they might just need a bit of an extra spark,” she said. “But it is also about preventing the use of illicit substances. If kids are linked in with their community they are less likely to take part in drug and alcohol abuse later in life, so we are really trying to form those links.”

The program has not only helped students to re-engage but sets them up on a pathway into the hospitality industry. Students receive a number of certificates, such as Safe Food Handling, Responsible Service of Alcohol and Barista training throughout the course, which they participate in one day a week for 20 weeks.

They work with local chefs, bakers and caterers to garner a complete understanding of the hospitality industry.

Hepburn Health Service’s Rheannon Owen said the program helped students to find their first employment opportunities.

16-year-old Adam Cassar said the program had really helped him. 

“It helped me out so much, not just to get the certificates, but with writing my resume. If I didn’t have these certificates I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do at work,” he said. “I work in the kitchen but I am also a waiter.”

Josh Barry is now doing his structural workplace learning with HHS to help to facilitate the program.

Ms Ellis said the school looked at the curriculum to ensure students had pathways after the program. 

“It wasn’t worth them doing a great program in year 9 with hospitality and then having nowhere to go.”

The program leads into the VET hospitality program so students can continue to build on the skills they have learnt.

“It is skills development but it is also personal development as well,” HHS’s Belinda Buck said. “A lot of the students continue on with their studies which ultimately assists with their mental wellbeing.”