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Ways & Means Cafe: brewing skills & boutique coffee since 2015

Image of the inside of Ways and Means cafe
Back to Stories
TAGS:   Skills , Youth Workers
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Before Ways and Means I was not confident with work and was unable to hold a job confidently. Ways & Means gave me the opportunity to volunteer and slowly get back into a working environment with support. I started off working hours that other young volunteers weren’t working due to my confidence at the time which helped me slowly build my working confidence. Now I’ve clocked up a year at the café and Kate the manager has been kind enough to give me paid hours at Ways & Means. I now work hours that other young people are working and help them to the best of my ability. My experience at Ways & Means has brought back my confidence with work that I’ve previously lost which is going to help me in the future with other employment, most importantly I have achieved my goal of wanting to have a stable job which I thought I’d never be able to achieve with how chaotic my life used to be. I couldn’t be happier working at Ways & Means - Edward

July 15 is World Youth Skills Day – a chance to focus on the importance of supporting young people to develop the skills they need to thrive. We sat down with Kate McKenzie, manager of Ways & Means café in the Melbourne CBD. The café is a YSAS program and social enterprise that has supported over 92 young people to build the skills and confidence they need to thrive in the community. 

Hi Kate! Thanks for this tasty flat white. Tell us a bit about Ways and Means

Hello, no problem!

Ways and Means is a YSAS program, established just over 18 months ago on Little Lonsdale street in the Melbourne CBD.

We offer vulnerable young people the opportunity to work in a boutique café, to develop new skills and a sense of belonging.

We work in partnership with other YSAS programs and services to identify young people interested in working at a café, and create a supportive pathway for them to do that. Our ultimate goal is to build the confidence, social skills and transferable professional skills to help move young people into paid employment or study.

How does the café help young people develop new skills?

Ways and Means provides a real-life working environment, supported by patient and compassionate staff. We have a culture of peer mentoring, which basically means staff and young people support new starters to develop their confidence and understanding of how a café works.

The people at the café are a mix of young people who have accessed YSAS services, volunteers from the hospitality industry and professional café workers. By working together, the guys with more experience can share pointers with the newbies and so-on and so forth.

What drives young people to work at the café?

They can see how it will benefit them, whether they have prior hospitality experience or not – they understand there are a lot of opportunities in Melbourne in this industry.

A lot of them just want to connect and build their confidence. Often, at the start, they’ll come in with their head hung low, thinking “oh, I can’t even work” then after a few weeks or months their confidence has grown immensely. They’re starting to think “wow, I can do this!”, their juices have started flowing and it’s a lovely thing to see.

What skills in particular are young people learning?

Most things to do with café work! From barista work – which is really hard! – to short order cooks, service, cleaning, point of sale machines and fulfilling catering orders. We tend to have a good spread of young people interested in all these jobs, rather than everyone wanting to be a barista for example which makes things easier!

A couple of weeks ago we had a catering order for 200 people at a nearby business. That was a big lesson in planning for all our staff. Three hundred sandwiches later, a few new skills were developed!

Another customer ordered a load of damper for a special event, so there’s always something different happening.

Aside from these more tangible skills, they’re also learning how to interact with the public, teamwork, self-worth, workplace etiquette, trust, a sense of motivation, confidence and social skills.

You made damper?!

There’s nothing we can’t do! Sometimes the staff and young people are just like “you said yes to what?!”

What impact does the café have on young people?

Ways and Means Café has supported 92 young people over the last 18 months. Most of these people have gone on to further study or paid employment. Everyone’s different but we’ve had some people go on to paid gigs at Ways and Means, elsewhere in the hospitality industry or secured trade apprenticeships. Others have gotten into education – back to VCE or enrolling in Tafe or university courses. They’re all different.

And what about the wider community?

Our clients are mainly corporate folk and they’re really supportive. A lot of them have very little knowledge or understanding of the challenges our young people are facing, so there’s a huge opportunity for the café to help educate people about issues like mental health, to try to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

I do think the café helps raise the social conscience of the community around us.

We have a suspended coffee system our customers are really into. They basically buy an extra coffee – or sometimes five extra coffees! – when they’re buying their morning round. Those coffees can then be claimed by someone in need of it.

Often this will be people sleeping rough or young people in need of a space to just be. They know they can come in, have a coffee – and I’ll give them a meal too – just to be and find the support they need.

We also have a lot of workplaces that go out of their way to order catering from us and we really appreciate that support.

Thank you for chatting with us! Would you like to share anything else?

I’d like to take this opportunity to express how important being part of this program has been for me personally. I feel very emotionally connected to the work and feel deeply passionate about the ongoing success of the program. Having the opportunity to assist so many young people has been truly inspiring.

If you’re in the Melbourne CBD area, visit Ways and Means café at 18 Little Lonsdale St.

And if you need delicious catering, give Kate a ring on 9639 8777. She and the team can pull together morning teas, lunches, afternoon teas and whatever else you need, including damper!

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