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Culinary Training Centre gives a “rice bowl” to ex-offenders

One signed up for the course while in prison, while another hopes to be a chef someday.

Dwight and Colin are amongst the inaugural batch of trainees at the newly-launched HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre. Homeless after being released from prison, they had nowhere to go. HCSA Highpoint took them in. Now, they both have a common goal – to leave their past behind and make a better future for themselves and their families.

Officially declared open on 8 May (Tuesday)  by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Member of Parliament, Jalan Besar GRC, HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre is the latest programme by HCSA Community Services (HCSA), a champion for abused teenage girls, single parents and ex-offenders.

HCSA empowers these vulnerable groups through its signature programmes – HCSA Highpoint, HCSA Dayspring Residential Treatment Centre, HCSA Dayspring SPIN (Single Parents INformed, INvolved and INcluded), and now, HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre.

The Academy aims to empower and enable HCSA’s beneficiaries and other vulnerable individuals with the professional skills required to secure stable employment in the F&B sector, giving them a new lease of life and a level playing field to support themselves and their families.

As an Approved Training Organisation (ATO), HCSA Academy offers a robust six-week course based on the Food Services skills framework by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), with job placements facilitated upon successful completion.

The culinary training programme ensures that trainees are guided and taught to perform in a real working kitchen. It follows a skill-training adult-pedagogy with hands-on learning of the craft in the Academy kitchen. Equipped with state-of-the-art equipment as part of HCSA’s “Smart Village” digitalisation initiative, the Academy includes online courses and Augmented Reality (AR) in the e-learning process.“

The AR app was developed by StarHub and Singapore-based creative technology start-up Immersively”, said Dr Chong Yoke Sin, Chief of Enterprise Business Group, StarHub. “Combining digital technology, connectivity and networking, we will continue to develop the AR app, allowing HSCA to boost learning creatively and effectively.”

Graduating trainees will receive the highly coveted WSQ Higher Certificate in Food Services (Culinary Arts). The Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) is a national credential system that trains, develops, assesses and certifies skills and competencies for the workforce.

“HCSA Community Services is privileged to be able to transform the lives of both men and women in need, helping them move out of a life of despair into one where they have a future and a hope,” said Ms Dominique Choy, Executive Board Member & CEO, HCSA Community Services.

The rice bowl is a metaphor for the basic elements that one needs to live,” Ms Choy added. “By equipping our beneficiaries and other vulnerable individuals with nationally-certified qualifications in F&B, HCSA Academy hopes to give them a “rice-bowl” – the means to become employable and the ability to support themselves and their families.”

“It is heartening to see that the trainees here are determined to start their lives afresh and make a living for themselves by acquiring industry-recognised and WSQ-certified F&B skills through the culinary training course offered by HCSA Academy,” said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Member of Parliament, Jalan Besar GRC.

With their passion for cooking, I am confident that they would be able to bring cheer to the people they cook for, and brighten their own lives in the process,” added Dr Yaacob.

Together with three other trainees, Dwight and Colin received their certificates from Dr Yaacob Ibrahim at the official launch, which was also attended by Ms Denise Chua, Member of Parliament, Jalan Besar GRC and Mayor, Central Singapore CDC.

Ms Choy also shared that Marina Mandarin Singapore and Aston’s have come on board as employers and will be taking on the five trainees. “We wish them all the best as they begin their journey towards a brighter future,” she said.

Colin, 55, is looking forward to starting life anew. “This course will change my life – it will help me discipline myself and stop me from mixing with bad company and going to prison again. It will help me pull away from my past, and build a better future for myself,” he said.

For Dwight, 33, being at HCSA Highpoint has helped him a lot emotionally, in terms of dealing with his fears, anxiety and depression. “Having counsellors to talk to at HCSA Highpoint and even talking to the Chefs here at the Academy makes me feel that life now has more opportunities,” he said.

“I’ve hurt and upset my mum a lot, I hope I can make it up to her someday,” he added. “I am determined to turn my life around and I believe HCSA Academy will prepare me for what lies ahead.”