A local initiative, the Teach the Need program provides underprivileged youths with the skills needed to find gainful employment in the restaurant industry.

MICKEY BAKST, GENERAL MANAGER of the Charleston Grill, has a tradition of spreading Christmas cheer in the local community. For the fourth year in a row, students from the Teach the Need programme gather at Belmond Charleston Place to celebrate their individual accomplishments.

Established in 2012 by Bakst and Michael Miller, a local entrepreneur, Teach the Need is the first effort of its kind in Charleston, South Carolina. The program teaches young people in poverty the skills they need to thrive in ‘front-of-the-house’ restaurant jobs.

Classes are taught by a team of volunteers from the hospitality community, with the cooperation of the Charleston County School Board. The students learn skills critical to thrive as servers, hosts and food runners. They are also equipped with the soft skills required to land demanding, high-end hospitality jobs. These include personal presentation, resume writing and interview skills.

The holiday rush creates a huge demand for staff, one that Bakst helps meet. “Once graduated I will help place the students in jobs within the hotel and around the community just in time for Christmas,” he explains.

There are currently over 100 young people employed in Charleston restaurants directly as a result of Teach the Need, including five who have been employed at Belmond Charleston Place. Tyriek Lance, who’s gone on to work at two of Charleston’s finest eateries said, “I've learned so much. Not only about working in a restaurant, but also about becoming a leader. Teach the Need taught me how to communicate better, work well with others, and to become a stronger individual.”

Bakst added, “With the current state of the economy, it's becoming harder than ever for high school graduates who aren't planning on attending college to find employment. These kids are plagued by unemployment and a lack of opportunities; this is a chance for us to give these kids a future, an opportunity they might not otherwise have.”

Since its creation, Teach the Need’s six-week program has expanded from four to eight low-income schools. These schools are all in areas where over 80 percent of the students fall below the poverty threshold.

“For me it is one of the greatest gifts of my career to watch these young people, from circumstances I can't imagine, grow into viable members of our hospitality community.” Bakst comments, “It brings tears to my eyes when I see a graduate working or when I get a note thanking me for all they have learned. I believe, without doubt, that this program is changing lives.”

Teach the Need now trains over 300 students per school year with a graduation rate of roughly 70 percent, and plans to eventually establish the program in all Charleston County high schools.

To get involved with Teach the Need, email Mickey Bakst at mickey.bakst@belmond.com.

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