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Inner-city Café To Connect Education And Industry

A vibrant inner-city café will soon come to life and bridge the gap between education and the hospitality industry.

The Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology-led project, which is supported by Rotorua Lakes Council, will see a commercial café built in the current iSite building on Fenton Street and is set to open early next year.

While the cafe will not be a training facility, it will offer Toi Ohomai Hospitality and Culinary Arts students the opportunity to sharpen their skills in a commercial environment. Junior staff at the café will be completing industry apprenticeships, while Toi Ohomai students will gain valuable work experience and training as part of their course. Students will also be able to showcase their work at student-run, pre-sold evening functions.

Toi Ohomai Business Design and Service Industries faculty Dean, Bart Vosse, says the project was borne out of discussions with industry leaders who want to raise standards across the hospitality industry.

A 2016 report by world-renowned tourism consultant Professor Terry Stevens identified the need to improve service and delivery standards in the industry, and this venture aims to stand alongside industry to help lift the bar. The café will be managed and operated by highly trained senior staff providing top quality service at a destination café space for both tourists and the community.

“Industry feedback has indicated that graduates need to be more ‘employment ready’ to be able to walk into the fast-paced world of commercial hospitality,” Vosse says.

“Toi Ohomai has seen the need to give students the most realistic, hands-on learning experience possible by establishing and operating a commercial café in the heart of the central city.”

Vosse says this project is a significant investment into the Rotorua community and supports education and the industry.

“We are bridging the gap between education, industry and community – and we’re proud to do so.”

Toi Ohomai graduate and Princes Gate Head Chef Digraj Baghela says the project is exciting for the junior staff who will be undergoing an apprenticeship, and also the hospitality sector.

“This will bring more opportunities to the motivated individuals across our highly-skilled hospitality sector and will be emerging as one of the great, idiosyncratic talents.”

Digraj says the café would provide students with vital work experience, enabling them to have a broader and more hands-on knowledge of delivering a customer-focussed experience. He says he is looking forward to poaching future employees from the café, as their training and experience would enable them to work at a higher level.

Rotorua Lakes Council owns the iSite building and in March 2021 Council agreed to add an outdoor area to the site being developed by Toi Ohomai, to ensure the successful establishment of the café and realisation of associated benefits to the district and community. The addition of the outside area is also intended to add to the vibrancy in Jean Batten Square.

Rotorua Lakes Council District Development Deputy Chief Executive Jean-Paul Gaston says this new and unique initiative encompasses Council’s commitment to creating a thriving inner city. This project also delivers diversity and innovation to the district, and will facilitate job creation and ongoing support for the local hospitality sector. A café has always been planned for this location and council is pleased to be able to partner with Toi Ohomai to see this eventuate in a way that supports training and retention of local students.

© Scoop Media

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