Since late-March, we’ve been using Tendo’s skills passport as a platform to offer free online training for furloughed baristas in the U.K. and U.S.. Over the past two months, as governments stall to re-open shuttered local businesses, upwards of 150 baristas have enrolled in Barista Hustle courses offered via Tendo’s web-app. The benefits have been broadly distributed throughout major cities and smaller towns; from London to Birmingham, New York City to Lowell, Massachusetts, baristas have seized the opportunity to upgrade their skills in a time of economic uncertainty.
Why support specialty coffee?
As office workers work from home and essential-service workers continue to serve on the frontlines, baristas and other service industry workers have been uniquely displaced by the coronavirus. Baristas and other workers in the hospitality sector have been uniquely displaced by the coronavirus. As the shut-down drags on, the future of the food industry itself is being threatened, with millions of workers sitting at home unable to find new work, and unsure if their employer will even come back online when the crisis passes.
What’s more, despite the robust culture and economy surrounding coffee consumption, baristas have struggled to achieve the financial success and industry renown that bartenders have achieved in recent years. The vast majority of baristas work for a minimum wage; not only are their earnings usually disproportionate to their skill-level or years of experience, but they also fundamentally fail to take home a living wage. In America, a barista makes $11.17 per hour on average while the UK’s national minimum wage of £8.72 informs the wage floor across the country.
For these reasons, baristas are uniquely positioned to benefit from upgrading their skill-set, particularly in these turbulent times. The ability to build a verified and portable record of skills and hours with Tendo provides a tangible way to recognise professional development and improve economic security.
How we got involved
We ran the project by reaching out to individual baristas via LinkedIn and contacting coffee shops via their websites. We targeted coffee communities geographically, not only focusing on major cities with noted coffee communities, such as London and New York, but also reaching out to smaller cities with vibrant coffee cultures. As a result, we have been able to build a network of determined baristas who are passionate about coffee and eager to return to serving their communities.
The response has been enthusiastic. Sabrina P., a barista and coffee trainer at London’s Soho House, completed over 100 hours of course material.
As soon as the lockdown started I was scared to feel lost without my job. Then Tendo gave me the great possibility to access Barista Hustle courses...This month literally flew by while studying every single course on Barista Hustle. It's an incredible platform because you can find any training you can need, from the basic courses for beginners, to advanced courses which give you knowledge that not all [baristas] have, like coffee quality control, water use and advanced coffee making. To be the best in any job we need to be always updated and constantly trying to improve ourselves, even in difficult times. So thanks to Tendo and Barista Hustle this lockdown [has] been a great possibility to improve my knowledge and I felt glad to be part of the coffee community.
Zdislav J., a barista in Birmingham, U.K., 120 miles west of London, was also excited for the opportunity to participate in the free month of Barista Hustle access.
I have heard of the company beforehand and I knew what they stand for. I've completed two courses from them: Barista One, the foundation course, and the Milk Science and Latte Art course... I was very satisfied with the quality of the courses and will continue to educate myself with [them] further.
The courses offered during the project normally cost upwards of $129, ranging from entry-level skills to more specific areas of knowledge, such as percolation, terroir and coffee quality control. “Barista Hustle is a fantastic training resource for all levels of baristas,” says Hana J. of South London cafe Flotsam & Jetsam, “The modules are informative and the videos make it easy to grasp the concepts. This coupled with Tendo makes it easy to see where each team is at with their training and what credentials they have achieved.” Each course takes about 20-30 hours to complete and comes complete with professional certification.
The broader picture
As local and national economies start to re-open and look toward recovery, prioritising skills training is essential for setting up employees for future success. Currently in the U.S. Senate, a bi-partisan bill proposes providing laid-off workers with a $4,000 tax-credit to put towards skills training, the hope being to “ease the barriers to re-entering the workforce” for the 32 million Americans who are currently unemployed. Our hope is that the baristas who enrol in the Barista Hustle initiative will be able to take their place behind the counter not only with enhanced technical skills, but with a broader and deeper understanding of the industry.
The lockdown has shown how important local commerce is, not just as a means of getting provisions but also for creating a sense of community. Coffee shops are an important part of this fabric and we expect them to come back, even if some businesses have been negatively impacted by the sudden downturn. As things return to normal, Tendo hopes to see baristas recognised as valuable professionals carrying out a fulfilling craft.