Biloxi Cafe Serves Up Job Skills

Many of the customers of a new cafe in downtown Biloxi don't realize that it's also a government funded training center. At Cafe Anola, people receiving public assistance get hands-on training in the food service industry. After they finish the course, the center helps students find jobs. Customers at Cafe Anola say they are impressed by the quality service they get.

Andre Williams, a customer said "I think the service is top good. It's a good thing. They're training workers to work and making it better for Biloxi as a whole."

"Very nice," said customer Maureen Collins."They act like experts to me so far."

However, they're not experts. They're students,at the Mississippi Hospitality Workers Training Center, who say they'll feel better about searching for jobs after they have the proper skills."

"That's embarrassing to me 'cause I'll be going up in there thinking I can do this and do that. Don't know what to do," said trainee Lashunda Wade. "That's why I'd rather be trained first so when I get there they ain't got to tell me nothing just let me do what I've got to do."

Wade and her coworkers must complete 120 hours of training. There is no time limit so students can finish at their own pace.

Another trainee Shay Stewart said "You can't say you don't got no baby sitter. You don't have no transportation. They do all that for you to better yourself."

The students aren't paid and can't even keep tips, but instructors say what they do get is far more valuable.

"There's always this light that comes on in someone's eyes when you say something or teach them something and they finally get it," said Lou Dean, instructor. So the satisfaction is in seeing people transition from not having a skill to having a skill and then putting that skill to use."

Students say the course is challenging and instructors make sure they know their stuff before they are allowed to graduate.

Wade said "They're not just gonna give you no certificate for something and you don't know what you're doing. You gonna be here 'til you get it and I got it."

The Mississippi Hospitality Training Center also trains people for housekeeping positions. All the trainees are referred to the program by the Department of Human Services.

by Danielle Thomas