Monday 11 October

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With high hopes, we kicked off Winter Scarf ’21 in July. This was to be the first 10-week Seasonal Program (Scarf's flagship training program) we’d run since Spring Scarf ’19! Covid looked like it was staying away, and we’d managed to run two short courses in the first half of the year. We were feeling confident (perhaps a little too confident!)

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The Winter Scarf '21 team of trainees.

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We recruited eight new trainees to take part in the program, which was to run from July to September at one of our favourite venues, Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall. Stomping Ground have been a generous Scarf partner since 2017, and this was to be the second time we’d run a season of Scarf Dinners with them.

Covid had other ideas!

Thankfully we were able to run an interactive program induction with the Scarf team, our eight trainees and eight mentors, as well as two face to face training sessions and Scarf Dinners at Stomping Ground before we had to shift things online. We’ve extended the season (which has been running remotely since 5 August), and we’re hoping to run more in-person training and a couple more Scarf Dinners before this cohort graduate from the program.

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Trainee Waseem expertly putting the three-plate carry into action during the first Winter Scarf Dinner for the season.  

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It’s been a challenging couple of months, but we're proud to have kept the whole team of eight Winter Scarf ’21 trainees engaged, by adapting our training materials so we can deliver meaningful online training. Our trainees have been incredibly patient with us and shown a strong commitment to the program. They’re grateful to be continuing their development with Scarf, and we've been able to create a sense of team spirit amongst them, despite Zoom being the key tool in our belt for now.

And, we’ve nurtured continuous relationships with the brilliant mentors who signed up to volunteer for Winter Scarf ‘21 (two of whom are graduates of the Scarf program). The Scarf mentors, who play such a crucial role in the program, have been able to continue to bond and connect with our trainees, despite only having two weeks of face to face training and mentoring before Covid restrictions got in the way!

Here’s a bit more detail on what the program’s looked like so far.

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Face to face training

-Wednesday 14 July – Service Skills with Gabs
This super interactive session saw our trainees learn the key elements of dinner service, including how to greet customers, presenting the drinks list and menu, taking an order and writing dockets, communicating with the bar and kitchen, and communicating with their fellow wait-staff. As always, the session was run by legendary Scarf mentor and trainer Gabs, who currently works at Bar Thyme (he was previously at Free to Feed and Gerald's Bar).  

- Wednesday 4 August – Mindfulness with Megha
Our Lead Mentor Megha recently introduced this session to our training schedule, and it was interactive, relevant and meaningful. Megha ran a comprehensive workshop on Wellness and Mindfulness techniques; and provided a rich toolkit of simple self-care strategies which can be applied when job-seeking, when working in a new job/industry, and more broadly into everyday life. The session was very accessible and the team have decided to make it a permanent unit in future programs.

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Mentoring and paid work experience

- Wednesday 14 July – Winter Scarf Dinner #1 at Stomping Ground
- Wednesday 4 August – Winter Scarf Dinner #2 at Stomping Ground

These two dinners allowed our trainees to experience mentoring from industry professionals, whilst engaging in paid work experience serving real customers who attended the Winter Scarf Dinners at Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall, our partner venue for the season.

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The Winter Scarf '21 trainees and mentors in action at Stomping Ground Brewery & Beer Hall. 

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For more information about Winter Scarf Dinners, see here.

We’re hoping to run a couple more Scarf Dinners before the year is out, so that the Winter Scarf ‘21 trainees can gain further paid work experience with us before moving into the workforce. If you’re keen to come along and support this cohort while enjoying some delicious Stomping Ground fare, please register your interest here.

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Trainee Hildana and mentor Vanessa serving diners during Winter Scarf Dinner #1. 
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Remote Training and Mentoring

So far, we’ve run seven interactive training and mentoring sessions on Zoom to keep our trainees engaged while building their knowledge, skills, confidence and job readiness. These sessions were:

- General check in / feedback session after Scarf Dinner #1
- Menu, tasting notes, dietary requirements and service skills training
- Wine and beer training + Scarf drinks menu training  
- Introduction to Customer Service training
- Hospitality-specific Q&A with Scarf mentors
- ‘Scarf at Home’ planning workshop
- 'Overcoming difficult situations in the workplace' workshop

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We begin each Zoom session with an introductory discussion amongst the Scarf team and trainees, asking questions like:
* What does hope mean to you?
* What do you love?
* What are your strengths?
* What are you most looking forward to when lockdown ends? 


These mini Q&A's with the team and trainees have formed a vital part in our sessions; they helped weave a sense of team spirit and allowed us to get to know each other better; and allowed everyone express themselves as individuals, with their own unique thoughts, feelings and opinions. Whilst the lockdowns have caused significant personal challenges for the trainees (as they have for all of us in the community), during these "ice-breaker" sessions there were plenty of smiles, the trainees spoke with warmth, passion, conviction; their eyes lit up; they told stories, they were able to imagine and share in meaningful ways.
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One of many 'Zoom into Scarf' sessions held over the past couple of months. 

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How have we adapted to Lockdowns #5 and #6?:

- We’ve spent time adapting our training materials so that our 10-week Seasonal Program (which is typically very ‘hands-on’ and designed to run face-to-face) can continue running in a way which delivers meaningful online training and job readiness support
- We’ve kept in regular contact with individual trainees (outside of group training sessions) to ensure they’re navigating lockdown effectively and keeping a focus on their wellbeing, growth and connectedness
- We have provided support/information to trainees and graduates via our private Facebook Group about vaccinations, general Covid resources in a range of languages, as well as continuing to provide information about job and training opportunities  
- We've given the trainees free access to 1000's of hospitality lessons in an ever-growing video library, thanks to our partnership with the legends at Typsy
- We’ve asked trainees what’s most important to them and tailored workshops accordingly (leading to our 'How to handle and overcome difficult situations in the workplace' workshop, which was very engaging. It started with a session on empathy, an essential ingredient in all interpersonal exchanges and relationships, and another fundamental life skill. It was a rich, interactive session, on the value of empathy, especially during challenging times, and the communication and service skills required to navigate and reconcile difficult situations in the workplace, and in life)
- We're offering 'open sessions' too, so our trainees can 'pop in' and enjoy a more bespoke session based on their individual needs; this support may even include assistance towards a technical computer session, spoken in Arabic. Our free flow sessions provide the trainees with more one on one time, offering individualised support to ensure every trainee is getting as much from Scarf as possible to allow their confidence and job readiness to grow
- We're also turning our attention towards delivering the ‘Job Readiness’ units of our Seasonal Program, which will include, amongst other things, support with writing CV's, interview questions and practice interview round robins with industry professionals, support with job applications, learning about 'Work Rights and Responsibilities in Australia', plus a special guest to share sage recruitment advice and host an interactive Q&A. In addition to this, we're including some well-timed revision on hospitality knowledge and service skills, in readiness for our hopeful return to Scarf Dinners in the coming weeks, and round up their training, as they embark on their search for secure employment

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We’re working on another news piece which details what the team are up to outside of the Winter Scarf ’21 program. We might be a small team but we’ve always got lots on the go! We can’t wait to share this update with you… we’re doing some really exciting things to help us continue delivering on our Strategic Plan, like engaging in an independent program evaluation with Synergistiq to help us better understand our social impact, creating a formalised Job Pathways Program, and starting a Graduate Advisory Group (to continue the important work which started with our Graduate Focus Group). Stay tuned!

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Winter Scarf '21 is running thanks to funding support from:

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All photos in this news piece: Roger Ungers