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Bermudians take a liking to restaurant jobs after training success

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For two Bermudians who couldn’t find work, the waiter-server programme has proven a fast track to gainful employment.

Launched as a partnership between Government and the private sector, the scheme is still moving ahead with the goal of replacing 100 work permit positions with full-time Bermudian waiter-servers.

New recruit Lynden Woods explained: “I was doing temp and construction work, but they were both on and off jobs. When they need you, you’re in. When they don’t, you’re out.”

Desperate for full-time employment, Mr Woods, who is 32, signed on after the job programme was announced in November. Applicants must be registered with the Department of Labour and Training. Mr Woods’ course commenced on January 21, lasting roughly one month at the Bermuda College.

The course comprises two weeks’ physical or practical training and two weeks’ soft training, Mr Woods explained.

“You learn all the basics of how to handle plates and serve tables, balance the orders in your head. You get taught how to write the orders, like a shorthand, and you practice setting up tables.”

Soft skills covered self-presentation, speaking and interviewing, e-mails and resumes “skills you use in any trade”, he said.

Last week found Mr Woods in his first full-time job in years: a trainee server at the Pickled Onion restaurant on Front Street.

“I see the certificate as quite valuable because it opens a lot of doors. If you get the certificate, you’re in, and if you can build up the experience from there, you can travel world wide with it. I’m still getting my feel for it but I definitely like the job.”

He recalls just one person dropping out of a class of 22. There was no expense entailed, he said just signing up and sticking with it.

For 29-year-old Mackeesha Curtis, the waiter-server programme seemed an unlikely resort after getting trained as a jeweller and diamond cutter. Even during a recession, work remains in that field, she said but it was difficult to start out in as a new, unknown candidate.

“I came home from college in 2010 and I got told I was overqualified,” she said. “That’s a blow when you have a passion for something and you come back to your own country and can’t get a job.”

With bills to pay, Ms Curtis signed on with Labour and Training in January, and joined the waiter-server course later that same month.

“There’s more to waiting than you think, and you’ve definitely got to put effort into it,” she said. “I’m a qualified jewellery designer and in my class I found a lot of entrepreneurs, people who were just having a slow time with their own work. I’d say about 85 percent of them have jobs at present.”

Twelve different prospective employers met the candidates, a procedure Ms Curtis likened to speed dating.

“After those quick interviews, we got called in for more interviews, and we chose what looked like the best positions where we could advance,” she said. She has just begun work as a food and beverage server for Heritage Court in the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel.

Both she and Mr Woods said they enjoyed their jobs and liked the variety of people they dealt with.

The programme is a partnership between the Department of Labour and Training, the Bermuda Hospitality Institute and the Restaurant Division of the Chamber of Commerce. Division co-chair Phil Barnett, who hired Mr Woods, said: “Our industry requires passion, people that understand this is a career. It’s never Monday to Friday, nine to five, and it’s not just something you do over a summer.”

Places remain, although another round of the course began recently and will finish in about a month’s time, he said. The programme tries to guarantee a job to everyone who completes the certification.

“That’s the idea, but it’s important to have balance as well,” Mr Barnett said. “You can’t have all new people all at once, in order to ensure that standards are kept high.”

Lyndon Woods and Mackeesha Curtis both took the same waiting course two weeks ago and both got jobs. Lyndon now works at Pickled Onion and Mackeesha works at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess (Photo by Glenn Tucker)
Lyndon Woods and Mackeesha Curtis both took the same course two weeks ago and both got jobs. Lyndon now works at Pickled Onion and Mackeesha works at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess (Photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 08, 2012 at 9:02 am (Updated March 08, 2012 at 9:02 am)

Bermudians take a liking to restaurant jobs after training success

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