“Work—one of the most consistent ways that adults participate in society--is an important milestone on young people’s path to adult success (America’s Promise Alliance, 2016).
Refill Café is a workforce training program that is designed to support Jackson’s most vulnerable young adults, specifically those between the ages of 18 and 24 who are disconnected from the workforce and education. This targeted population is at, or past, the threshold following high school and—for a variety of reasons--lack sufficient adult support, feedback, and the benefit of focused time to mature that are so critical (for everyone) to move down a pathway that provides a durable transition into adulthood beginning with meaningful employment.
Refill’s vision is to design a sustainable model that replicates this scaffolded pathway for students who reach this point in their development without the necessary education, life and work skills to become self-sufficient and fully contributing members of society.
Refill Cafe will be located in a renovated and repurposed coffee house in West Jackson that will serve as the hub of the program. The first floor and surrounding decks will house an operating café and kitchen where the learning and practicing work-ready and technical skills will take place. A complement of classrooms and meeting space on the second floor provide Refill “members” community space to complete a well-designed curriculum for soft-skills, financial literacy, educational support, and links to health and social services.
Our starting staff in year one will support the first twelve-member cohort. Refill staff consists of an Operations and Development Director, a Program Director, an Employment Coordinator, Social Worker, and restaurant and kitchen staff. Key to Refill’s design is a growing network of partners that have committed to an array of essential services that complete the supported “pathway.” These include social service referring agencies, financial institutions, educational programs, and physical and mental health providers. Beyond year one as new cohorts begin, staff will be added to support expanding partnerships and sustain alumni progress.
Each cohort is made up of twelve members over a ten-week period. Phase one of the program initiates members into an ethos of respect for self and others and promotes guidelines for persistence and mutual accountability. The pathway includes a Career Investment Plan (CIP) that is developed by the member with staff support. During the ten weeks, members complete the soft-skills curriculum, are introduced to technical skills within the restaurant, and receive additional services as identified through the CIP process.
Upon graduation, Refill members are placed either in full-time employment, continuing education programs, or an internship that extends their learning opportunities in settings beyond the food services sector. Although some members may elect to pursue a career in the food services industry, the café setting primarily provides a framework to experience and practice skills that are transferrable to any employment.
Among Refill Café outcomes, members will hone skills needed to be successful in the workplace. They will build confidence to apply for jobs and navigate the work environment and prove to themselves and to employers that they can be productive, reliable employees. This scaffolded pathway will demonstrate how to conquer the barriers that otherwise impede successful transition to adulthood.