A barista training programme at Christchurch Women’s Prison is continuing to brew success with another group of women achieving NZQA certificates.

Over the past year, Christchurch Women’s Prison has hosted three 10-week barista training courses, with three women graduating with two NZQA unit standards from each programme.

Prison Director Wayne McKnight says the barista programme offers skills and a qualification that can lead to real employment on release for the women in prison.

“The numbers on this course may seem small, but the potential positive impact of this training is enormous,” Mr McKnight says.

”Achieving this qualification can be absolutely life changing. Many of the women in our prisons have had very few positive achievements before in their lives. This signals a new start and new opportunities for a much brighter future. It shows them that they can learn and achieve, they can determine their own destiny.

“Café work is a skill and an interest they can pursue in small and large towns, full time or part time, and to fit around their families. Having a job and an income offers the women confidence to provide for their families and independence from others who may be a bad influence on them.”

The women can further their training in a café on release and the unit standards are counted towards a certificate that is recognised by possible employers or training providers if the women want become a qualified barista.

One of the course graduates, Maria*, who has worked in retail and a commercial kitchen before says she is interested in a future in the food industry on release.

“I always wondered what it would entail, and now I have done the training, it has fuelled my interest further. The course was really informative, and the training was great.”

Nicky* has never worked in the food industry or a café. She says the course was “awesome”. Her dream has been to run an ice cream truck as a way of supporting herself and her family. “The thoughts were there, but the course confirmed that I’m doing this, for sure,” she says.

Another graduate, Stephanie*, has worked in a restaurant before but says that she wasn’t experienced at the barista aspects of the job until now.

“I feel much more competent at making coffees and this will help me getting back into the industry. I absolutely loved the training.”

The programme is made possible at Christchurch Women’s Prison through the support of volunteer tutor and café owner Vanessa Clements, the Ashburton Zonta Club and Christchurch’s Underground Coffee Roasters.

“Zonta has donated us a coffee machine and, coupled with Underground’s high quality product, provides the women with a good indication of what great coffee should taste like,” Ms Clement says. "The women have all shown a keen interest in the barista trade and dedication to the course. They attend each week with enthusiasm to learn, asking questions, and improving hugely as the weeks go by.

“These unit standards are a good introduction to the industry and a step forward to gaining employment once released in a trade they have all seemed to enjoy and consider pursuing.”

Hospitality and catering courses are very popular at the prison as skills the women can use on release, at home and as employment options. The prison offers a range of hospitality courses and qualifications. A number of which are delivered by volunteers.

“Many of our programmes rely on support from the community,” says Wayne McKnight. “In this case we have Vanessa and Underground Coffee contributing to making a difference in the lives of these women and through the women, to their families and whanau.”

Vanessa Clements was recently recognised by Corrections in their annual Volunteer Awards.