Joe Wong, 46, has been working as a hotel room attendant ever since he graduated from secondary school. He has been in the hotel industry for more than two decades.
But Mr Wong has always had a passion for cooking and has been interested in pursuing a career in catering.
Lacking the work experience to switch careers, he joined the Employees Retraining Board’s Foundation Certificate in Local Cafe Kitchen Assistant Training programme to kick-start a new career.
“I thought I was only going to learn how to make milk tea, coffee and snacks when I first joined the course.
“But it has offered so much more than I imagined because it teaches us how to make famous Chinese dishes.”
Mr Wong has gained a new sense of confidence from the programme, and has high hopes he will find a new job soon.
St James’ Settlement is one of the trainers for the Employees Retraining Board programme. Students there learn a variety of skills ranging from the intricacies of operating a restaurant to the art of brewing the perfect cuppa.
Soft Yuen, who has worked in the catering industry for three decades, is one of the course’s instructors.
He said working in a local cafe is not an easy task, especially when it comes to making stocking milk tea.
“The key feature of Hong Kong-style milk tea is the use of a sackcloth strainer to filter tea leaves. I teach my students to add milk after they make the tea. This way the tea will have the optimal texture in both colour and taste.
“The course takes about 180 hours to complete and enhances the students’ technical skills as well as stimulates their creativity through hands-on learning,” Mr Yuen added.
Making a contribution
The course is also helping the unemployed join the workforce. Fifty-year-old housewife Bicky So wanted to return to work now that her kids have grown up.
With no prior experience, she decided to join the training course last year. She is now working as a part-time kitchen assistant in a canteen.
She said: “My duties include cleaning and food preparation in the kitchen. I believe people of different ages can join this industry.
“Older people have lots of experience. After we receive the training, we can return to the workplace and contribute to society again.”
St James’ Settlement runs about three courses a year. More than 80% of its students are aged between 40 and 69, and the employment rate of its graduates was about 80% in the past three years.
The Employees Retraining Board also offers about 700 training courses covering nearly 30 industries, including performing arts, finance, tourism, Chinese healthcare and many others.