Young people facing employability challenges, trained to become chefs, in Dublin

Two NGOs from Dublin collaborate in the Urban Picnic Outreach Programme: the company is based in Sheriff St in the inner city and the purpose is to help young people facing employability challenges. The company trains them to become chefs with the support of nine mentors within a six-month training programme.

The Partners

The SME – the business partner

Urban Picnic is a specialist catering company providing services to international tech companies in the Financial District in Dublin, Ireland: their expertise is on-site restaurant-style catering; the chefs are all from a restaurant background, and everything is cooked from scratch with strictly seasonal produce. The business has been going for 8 years and is at the upper end of an SME size in terms of number of employees with 185 people currently.  

The Youth NGOs

SWAN Youth Service operate this programme with Urban Picnic, and with some involvement from another Youth NGO, the North East Inner City partnership (NEIC).

The Programme

Both NGOs collaborate in the Urban Picnic Outreach Programme: the company is based in Sheriff St in the inner city and the purpose is to help young people facing employability challenges, coming from families facing multiple challenges… to train them to become chefs with the support of 9 mentors within a 6 month training programme; they become a commis chef and the company treats them on equal terms as employees during the training. This is Urban Picnic’s own programme but SWAN and NEIC help them to identify the young people. The 9 mentors are usually the managers within Urban Picnic.

The Collaboration & its History

The Urban Picnic Outreach Programme started in 2018, with a 6 months programme/intake, and they are on the second one now. The objective is to give young people in challenging circumstances some work opportunities and professional skills for future employment

The investment is not directly financial however it is significant in terms of training and mentoring, so indirectly this costs the company in terms of staff time/salaries. Financial support could not be given by Urban Picnic as an SME in the catering industry where margins are small but this is another way to help, that is more feasible and makes use of their specialist skills.

Having decided to start this Outreach Programme Urban Picnic approached these two local Youth NGOs to help them help find suitable candidates. The NGOs were already involved in Career Leap which is a programme run in conjunction with the University and a public sector institution, the Education and Training Board. Career Leap was the perfect match for Urban Picnic and they were able to put candidates forward. Urban Picnic ran interviews and then offered a 3 week work placement to the 2 selected candidates, and this was all part of Career Leap. However Urban Picnic wanted to go further, they saw the 3 weeks as a trial period for the young people, and as they did well they were then hired for 6 months in their internal Outreach Programme. Urban Picnic got support from Facebook which is one of their key sites as they needed permission for the scheme to occur on their premises around giving the young trainees access etc. The 9 mentors attended training given in advance of Career Leap.  Aimee Harding who is the employment coordinator in SWAN was and remains the point of contact on the NGO side.

Impact & Benefits

For the young people and the community, the project is clearly having a wider impact beyond the 2 Young People involved: their friends in the community see them getting jobs ‘in Facebook’ and getting off the streets, it gives them a lot of hope for the future and creates positive role models.

For the SME owner, the founder of Urban Picnic, he wanted to give back after becoming successful and especially, with the company being based in a socially challenged area of the city, he felt lucky to be a success and wanted to give back to the local community.

For his employees, the project fuels their spirit, they talk about the joy and satisfaction of seeing the good they are doing, it is highly motivating. For some of the mentors it is their first time training others so they are gaining a new skill as well.

An inspiring success story & a bit of advice…

This initiative is already a great success and is growing. The key moment and milestone for the SME owner in setting up this partnerships was seeing the youth organisation staff ‘in action’: how dedicated and how impactful they are. As Gavin himself described it, Aimee Harding the employment coordinator in SWAN Youth Service performs impressive work with the young people, it was a real eye opener for him to visit the service and to meet young people with very challenging lives, and to witness first-hand the successful work that SWAN Youth Service do. This is what really compelled Urban Picnic to get on with starting the programme so in terms of promoting new CSR partnerships like this one, Gavin is advising Youth NGOs to invite SMEs to come and see what they are doing in situ and show the real impact of their work.

The article is written by Anne L’Henoret from Youth Work Ireland based on an interview with the Owner of Urban Picnic, Gavin Prendergast.