Inspiration Corporation's Mulu Belete works with FareStart Consulting to support trainees in finding jobs
“How do you make graduations special?” Mulu Belete (she/her) asks a Zoom screen full of chef instructors and trainers from 17 different job training programs across the U.S. This was the final day of FareStart’s train-the-trainer workshop, a series of trainings facilitated by FareStart’s consulting team for chef instructors working with students who have barriers to employment. The squares on the screen shuffle as people raise their virtual hands and take turns sharing how they celebrate people who have graduated from their program, while the rest of the room listens intently for new ideas.
Mulu works at Inspiration Corporation, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides social services, job training, housing, and food to those affected by homelessness and poverty. They also train individuals for careers in the food service industry through Inspiration Kitchens, their social enterprise restaurant. As an Employment Specialist, Mulu teaches professional development classes to support trainees in finding jobs.
Since starting her role in July, Mulu was moved by the first program graduation she attended. “A lot of folks weren't able to have a high school or any other graduation,” she said. “So it was just a really special day for everybody… Seeing them move on and get new jobs made me happy.” She was also overwhelmingly grateful for how welcoming and supportive everyone was to her as a newbie.
However, she realized there was a bit of a learning curve for her when it came to supporting trainees in their job readiness. “When I started in my role, I was like whoa, this is a little bit more than I thought it would be,” she said. “There are certain things that I thought would just come naturally, that didn't come quite as naturally.”
That led Mulu to sign up for the train-the-trainer workshop, where she could learn how to be a more effective trainer for communities with barriers to employment. She says she appreciated “having the chance to talk with other people in the same situation and talk with the instructors who are working with hundreds of people in the same way we are.” She learned how to establish boundaries to ensure positive experiences for her and her trainees, prioritize professional development through a job club and build community among graduates through alumni networks.
“It's just really helpful to get perspective on things that could be better in our organization also,” Mulu shares, “because sometimes you just keep doing things because that's the way you've always done them. I think it's giving you a chance to ask, ‘Why do you do this? And is this the best way to do this?’”
She says the workshop is already making an impact on her work. “I like all the ideas people were giving about graduation, and some of them were even easy enough that we can incorporate them into next week's graduation. We're having [graduates] decide what meal they want to make, and we are working on it together.”
Regarding the future, she feels more confident from the many tips shared by workshop instructors and participants that she can navigate any situation that may arise. She says she looks forward to making a positive impact on their program.
About FareStart Consulting
FareStart Consulting helps nonprofits build mission-driven food businesses and job training programs that disrupt poverty and nourish communities. FareStart Consulting has helped over 270 organizations in 44 states launch and scale job training social enterprises that create pathways to economic stability for people furthest from opportunity. We offer tailored consulting for your unique needs, whether you are just getting started or are ready to expand your existing program. Or join one of our accelerators or train-the-trainer workshops to grow your program alongside a group of your peers.