“One phone call made my dream come true.” Charity Jasper has always wanted to open her own coffee shop. With CITC’s Barista Apprenticeship Program, she’s several steps closer to realizing her dream.
Charity Jasper has a vision: She sees herself opening a combination coffee shop and bookstore — a “community living room” where people can gather and share ideas. And with one phone call, she’s closer than ever to making that vision real.
“The Barista Apprenticeship Program opened all kinds of doors to things I wouldn’t otherwise have known about,” Charity said.
She came to CITC’s newest apprenticeship program with no experience in the service industry. After six months, she not only completed the program and gained real-world experience, she was promoted to a supervisory position and accepted into the Anchorage Land Trust’s Set Up Shop program, which works with entrepreneurs in underserved communities to open businesses in those neighborhoods.
Today, Charity is closer than ever to seeing her dream come true. “I went from waiting for COVID to be over to not just having a plan for what I want to do, but actively working toward it.”
A New Option
Launched shortly after the reopening of CITC’s Coho Cup café at the Nat’uh Service Center, the Barista Apprenticeship program is just one of a variety of on-the-job training experiences offered by Alaska’s People.
The program is a six-month process, during which apprentices develop their customer services skills, in addition to learning how to make lattes and cappuccinos. Apprentices work behind the counter and inside the kitchen of the Coho Cup, putting what they learn to a real-life test and steadily gaining more responsibility. Before they graduate the program, apprentices also receive training in back-of-house skills like making deposits and planning menus.
While other Alaska’s People programs like the Administrative Apprenticeship and the Intern Partnership Program are designed to act as pathways to specific career fields, the Barista Apprenticeship has a broader goal: Whether graduates go on to work as baristas at local coffee shops, or choose an entirely alternate career path, they’ll end up with skills and experience that will open doors for them.
“When Leah first came to Coho Cup, she was so quiet, she wouldn’t talk to customers, or even to the rest of the staff, she was so shy,” said Coho Cup Manager Lynn Murphy.
When Leah Amukon came to Anchorage from Scammon Bay, she had no intentions of working at a coffee shop. But through the Barista Apprenticeship, she has learned how to handle stress and balance responsibilities; in addition to practical skills, she has developed her customer service and an ability to be proactive.
“That’s the goal,” Lynn explained. “The core of the program is that we want people who lack the skill needed to get a job on their own to be able to work anywhere because we’ve helped them develop those skills. After six months here, they can write their own ticket.”
Meeting Goals, Step by Step
“I have so many goals and ideas, but I’ve got a squirrel brain,” Charity described. “Having a monthly meeting that held me accountable was incredibly beneficial.”
In addition to on-the-job training at Coho Cup, barista apprentices meet once a month with Internship and Apprenticeship Manager Tiara McDougal, along with a case manager, to create a step-by-step plan for how to accomplish their goals.
In Charity’s case, that plan involved applying for scholarships she was eligible for through her ANCSA corporation, CIRI, and filling out her FAFSA paperwork. Alaska’s People also helped her obtain her TAP card and food license needed to work at Coho Cup and at The Writer’s Block, a community partner where barista apprentices can gain additional experience.
“Vocalizing what I wanted and putting it on paper, with Tiara guiding me through those steps and connecting me with resources — that’s been amazing,” Charity shared. “The network CITC has to help with that is incredible.”
CITC’s Barista Apprenticeship Program is open to all Alaska Native/American Indian people aged 18 and over; applicants must have or be working toward their GED.