On a Wing and a Prayer…and a Pocket Thermometer: Refugees pin employment hopes on foodservice training program

November 02, 2012


Some will have been here a couple of months already; others but a few scant weeks. All will have fled their homes countries, moving to Denver, Colorado with perhaps few possessions but lots of resolve, focus and toughness of spirit. Ten of these refugees will be looking to resettle in their new communities and acculturate; recover from past trauma; gain personal independence and economic self-sufficiency; and quickly become able participants and productive, contributing members of American society. They plan on doing so through their participation in the African Community Center’s (ACC) newest employment program, Commercial Food Safety and Service Training (CFaSST). This foodservice sanitation, customer service, and American workplace culture orientation curriculum is being delivered by the ACC’s Donna Kapp, an employment trainer and ESL teacher specializing in working with immigrants and refugees.

CFaSST is taking place on the campus of and in partnership with the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver from April 2 to May 11, 2012. The program will run for six weeks, entail 90 hours of classroom training and participation in a two-week internship at a local foodservice establishment, and ultimately culminate with a graduation on June 4, 2012. Cheri Young, an associate professor in the Knoebel School and a Faculty Associate with the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning at the University of Denver, is having students enrolled in her human resources course be “employment mentors” to the refugees. Through service learning, her students will learn about human resources by (1) preparing a training program to teach the refugees how to interview for foodservice jobs; (2) conducting mock job interviews; and (3) developing manuals on employee responsibilities and rights for the refugees. Additionally, two other Knoebel School students with interests in human resources management will be conducting independent studies in which they will research the best ways for employers to leverage the talents of refugees by helping to make the transition to the American workplace smoother. The results of their research will be published in a “how-to” guide for first-time employers of refugees.

Although traditional classroom learning certainly has its place in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, Dr. Young integrates service learning in her courses. Service learning is active learning that links traditional academics with community service through thoughtful, collaborative engagement with community organizations, like the African Community Center, and the people they serve. Through structured analysis, critical thinking, applied projects, and reflective writing assignments, students receive a rich and meaningful learning experience that changes lives.

If you’d like more information or to schedule an interview with Cheri Young, please call Cindy Koch at 303.871.4791 or e-mail her at ckoch5@du.edu.

Created in 2001, the African Community Center (ACC) of Denver is a Program Office of the Ethiopian Community Development Council Inc. (ECDC), a community-based 501(c) (3), nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.  During the first 12 months of a refugee’s arrival, the ACC offers case management, housing, and employment services, helping refugees become self-sufficient and productive members of the Denver community by helping them prepare for, locate, and keep a job.

Established in 1946, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management (KSHM), at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver, prepares students for senior management positions in the fast-changing and competitive hospitality industry. KSHM graduates possess the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in all aspects of the hospitality and tourism business.