Kitchen aid for those who've done time

Help group plans new training facility to teach F&B skills to ex-offenders

Ravi (not his real name), 48, has a simple dream: to share his passion for food with fellow Singaporeans by becoming a cook.

But the odds have always been stacked against him. Ravi has a history of drug abuse and has been jailed multiple times. Restaurant after restaurant has turned him away, put off by his past and lack of qualifications.

Soon, a new initiative may make his dreams a reality.

HCSA Community Services, formerly known as HighPoint Community Services Association, plans to set up a new HCSA Training Kitchen to equip its beneficiaries and other needy individuals with the skills required to land a stable job in the food and beverage (F&B) industry.

Beneficiaries will not just learn to cook, but will also be taught basic food hygiene, a requirement to work in the industry.

The HCSA Training Kitchen will also run a shorter course for those wanting other jobs in F&B.

The Training Kitchen, which will be developed from the current kitchen at HCSA Community Services Headquarters in Geylang, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of next year.

"We chose F&B because we have a large commercial kitchen that can be converted into a training kitchen, and there is such a shortage of Singaporean workers in this industry," said Ms Dominique Choy, executive vice-president of HCSA Community Services.

"This is a win-win situation. Our beneficiaries gain employment and the industry receives much needed Singaporean workers."

HCSA Community Services will partner an approved organisation to provide training.

Beneficiaries will receive Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications certification upon completing their course.

Ravi is excited at the prospect.

"I can finally be hired and become a cook with this certification, and no longer need to be disappointed each time when I am told I don't have the qualifications," he said.

The HCSA Training Kitchen will initially take beneficiaries from the organisation's three existing programmes: HighPoint Halfway House, DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre and DaySpring New Life Centre.

Eventually, they hope to extend the new programme to other voluntary welfare organisations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2016, with the headline 'Kitchen aid for those who've done time'. Print Edition | Subscribe