Leura Garage jumpstarts hospitality careers

Leura Garage Jumpstart graduate Emma Glinn. Photo: David Hill

Leura Garage Jumpstart graduate Emma Glinn. Photo: David Hill

Would-be baristas, waiters and bar staff can charge up their hospitality careers locally, trained and ready to work close to home at one of the region’s best restaurants.

The Jumpstart program at Leura Garage gives practical, real-life training from experienced staff, underpinned by formal in-house training by an external registered training organisation.

Restaurant owner James Howarth said the program not only provided young people of the Blue Mountains and surrounding areas such as Penrith, Lithgow and the Hawkesbury training and work locally, it offered staff for the local hospitality industry.

With approximately 5,500 full-time equivalent jobs, the tourism and hospitality industry was the second largest employer in the Blue Mountains region, so it made sense for related businesses to take responsibility for training their own staff.

“The demise of many hospitality training facilities throughout the country doesn’t have to be a negative for cafes and restaurants like us.

“Training our own staff actually gives us the opportunity to turn out staff who work to our style and requirements,” said Mr Howarth.

Not only did young people aged 18 to 20 receive on-the-job training in customer service in one of the world’s most recognised tourist destinations, they were paid for their efforts.

“Good chefs, good baristas and good waiters can travel the world on the skills they learn with us. If you’re willing to work hard then we’ll help you do that.

“But we welcome long-term team members here too, whether you stay on at Leura Garage or help sustain the wider hospitality industry at another local café, restaurant or hotel.”

The first Jumpstart graduate was Emma Glinn, 18 of Wentworth Falls, who completed the program in six months.

The Macquarie University law and psychology student supports her studies by working about 25 hours a week in casual shifts at Leura Garage.

“I went from someone who knew nothing about the hospitality industry to being able to do anything from waiting on tables, making coffee, cleaning and laying tables,” she said. “It’s great to have that training in people skills and problem solving too.”

The Jumpstart program gave participants the confidence to persevere and try new things, while Leura Garage was an upbeat, innovative work environment, Ms Glinn said.

Leura Garage, which opened as a café/restaurant in 2011 after an award-winning transformation from a contaminated car mechanic’s site to an “eco garage”, now had 80 employees throughout the year on a payroll worth close to $1 million, Mr Howarth said.

“That’s support for a lot of families in the Blue Mountains.

“We try to employ locals as much as possible so if you dine with us, chances are the waiter’s the kid down the street or the lady you often see doing her shopping at the supermarket.”

The funky restaurant was one of the most patronised in the Blue Mountains and received regular rave reviews from diners and media from around the globe, making it an excellent industry training ground for aspiring young hospitality workers.

As well as the Jumpstart program, Leura Garage also worked with Ability Options in giving employment to people with a disability.

“As far as we’re concerned, if you have the potential to do the work and you’re willing to learn, you’re entitled to a job,” Mr Howarth said. “It’s that simple.”

Leura Garage was not just a tourist eatery but a meeting place for locals seeking outstanding regional food in a casual atmosphere.

“While the Blue Mountains is one of the most famous places on Earth and millions of tourists flock here from overseas every year, we want our local community to know that we truly value them.”

Leura Garage, which incorporated as much local produce into its menu as possible, rewarded locals simply for living in the Blue Mountains. Just show proof of residency (eg: driver’s licence, rates notice) to receive a 10 per cent discount off the final bill or two pizzas for the price of one from Monday to Thursday.

Leura Garage, 84 Railway Pde, Leura, is open from 12pm til late seven days. Bookings (including for Christmas parties) and details: (02) 4784 3391, info@leuragarage.com.au or leuragarage.com.au.

Potential Jumpstart trainees can email jobs@leuragarage.com.au to arrange a trial.