New training initiative teaches barista skills to adults with autism
To help such adults, Coffee Shed, a coffee shop in Toronto, Canada's Surrey Place Centre, has hired baristas trained through Made by Mavericks, a training program in which adults with autism or other developmental disabilities can learn the tricks of the barista trade.
Made by Mavericks was the brainchild of Gerald Fantone, a job coach with nonprofit human services organization Common Ground Co-operative (CGC). Fantone researched a similar program aimed toward adults with Down syndrome and set about developing a program that catered to those with autism, with more focus on job coaching.
"A huge part of my role at CGC is to think of new training programs for our clients in order for them to learn and hone new skills that may help them gain other meaningful employment outside of the social enterprise setting," Fantone said. "While there are plenty of programs available, I wanted to tap into something that’s trade-specific, and the coffee culture in Toronto is booming at the moment."
Before launching his own program, Fantone traveled to Spain to see participants in the Down syndrome program -- after which Made by Mavericks would be modeled -- take part in a barista competition.
"It was an eye-opening experience," Fantone said. "I was very eager to see their process, and I came back feeling very inspired."
To date, Made by Mavericks has trained nine individuals (referred to as "business partners") to extract espresso and foam milk. One of those business partners is Andrew Mathew, 25, who trained for three weeks.
“It was difficult at first," Mathew said. "There are many things to remember and the foaming happens quickly, so I have to stay focused -- but I like trying new things and Gerald keeps the training fun.”
Fantone's vision is to keep growing Made by Mavericks.
"The talent is definitely there," he said. "I just have to bridge the gap with future employers and that is why internships are important. It provides real industry experience."
Owners of two additional businesses -- Ezra’s Pound and de Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters -- have agreed to train employees through the program.
"Once I was introduced to Gerald, he was telling me about it, and without second thought, my answer was ‘Yes, I want to be a part of it and want to support you as much as I can,'" Felix Cha, co-owner of de Mello Palheta, said.
Made by Mavericks is still in development, but Fantone hopes to have everything in place and all the kinks worked out by this fall.
"We really want the program to be fully modified to the participants’ strength so we are creating visuals, training booklets, a website and videos to help with the training," Fantone said.
The most important thing to him, Fantone said, is that Made by Mavericks helps as many people as possible get trained and into the workforce.
"Before joining CGC, I had a hard time looking for a job," Mathew said. "Now I look forward going to work, meeting new people and drinking vanilla latte."
Organizations in this story
Autism Speaks One E. 33rd St. 4th Floor New York, TX - 10016