At Machina, we have always been passionate about developing strong links with our local community and accessible, real world routes into coffee for young people. As a coffee roastery we take a pragmatic and honest approach to coffee and our place in the industry. We are not looking to follow the latest trends but to authentically improve the quality standards of coffee in Scotland and provide employment opportunities for our local community. In summary it is probably fair to say that our approach is slightly old fashioned in that we want to create traditional industry and skills for young people that provides them with skills and employment opportunities for life.
Furthermore, in a post Brexit landscape the coffee industry has both a recruitment and talent challenge that reflect the broader hospitality industry as a whole. The coffee industry finds itself with serious staff shortages and like hospitality an image problem in the UK as a profession to develop a long term career. Moreover, over the past decade, coffee has benefitted from Europeans moving to work in the UK, bringing their ideas and traditions with them, enjoying life and work in the UK, which is now a much more complicated picture.
Based on this and our values, we believe that landscape exists for Scotland to develop an outstanding coffee scene that is leading the UK, if we find the right pathways to harness interest in and nurture young coffee talent. Furthermore not only is Scotland a leading tourist destination, but it also has a booming speciality coffee scene with a high proportion of coffee roasteries vs the size of the population (particularly in the major cities). Further to this Scotland Food & Drink plans to grow food and drink turnover in Scotland and the rest of the UK from £8.6bn to £17bn over the next decade.
These 3 things have been driving our recent foray into coffee education in Scottish High Schools which can be distilled into 3 simple things:
- To foster a passion and understanding for coffee amongst school leavers
- Teach real world skills in schools to provide real world employment pathways
- Develop a talent base in Scotland that both benefits the local hospitality and coffee industries and in turn challenges perceptions about hospitality as a long term career choice.
How it started?
We had been looking at angles for a while about how we could build inroads into coffee education for a while, with our focus predominantly on higher education. However, fate took us on a slightly different (and in hindsight probably more relevant) track. Back in 2022, when we were initially approached by Musselburgh Grammar school’s Developing the Young Workforce school coordinator about working with schools in East Lothian, to look at ways we could implement the SQA in Barista Training. Musselburgh Grammar’s deputy head teacher was keen to help pupils develop skills for life and work, and was keen to forge ahead with a programme of activity to implement the new course. In particular, the school staff shared our ambition for developing employment pathways and progression routes into sectors including retail, tourism and hospitality, but at the same time needed a trusted local expertise to help them implement the programme.
What became apparent early doors with the work was how mutually beneficial the partnership was for all parties. Implementing a good quality coffee service in hospitality businesses is often underappreciated for it’s complexities, so delivering coffee training, a functioning barista set up and all the associated technicalities, such as equipment servicing, for a school on top of everything else going on was always going to be a challenge. However it was instantly refreshing how open the staff were to collaborative working and keen to learn from us in terms of what we could offer them in terms of support beyond just the coffee equipment itself. Due to our size, flexibility and expertise we were able to provide the consultancy required to enable them to effectively deliver the programme and in turn open up a new commercial and wholesale opportunity for our business, that was directly tied into our values.
What has been delivered to date?
Working within the parameters of the available budget, we provided an appropriate high specifaction espresso machine, grinder set up, plus all the barista kit required, alongside developing a bespoke mobile coffee cart solution specifically for Musselburgh to be able to deliver the programme. Our team also provided a full install of the kit, coupled with 3 training sessions for all staff delivering the course. The first session was a complete immersion in coffee at the roastery from creating espresso shots, pouring milk, and understanding the equipment. This was followed by two on site, with suggested enhancements and troubleshooting on how best to deliver the SQA materials and working through using the equipment provided on site.
As the partnership continued to grow, working with the school’s Developing the Young Workforce school coordinator, we looked at other ways we could support the school widen participation and really maximise the partnership to help inspire the pupils about employment and career opportunities in coffee. Off the back of the conversation we have since attended the Developing Pathways Career Fair where some of the roastery team spent the evening chatting to pupils and parents about career opportunities in the coffee industry.
Coffee roasteries provide an engaging and interactive opportunity for pupils to gain cross curricular learning about how a local business functions. Experiences and outcomes offered include supply and logistics, graphic design, brand building and sales, entrepreneurship/building a business and the science of coffee. In line with this insight we have delivered 3 tailored lessons in the school with different members of our Roastery Team on a variety of subjects from Plant to Particle, Entrepreneurship and Brand Building. Feedback from the school has been wholly positive with the pupils responding positively to the interactive sessions and real world perspectives.
However what has been most satisfying to see is that the pupils undertaking the course develop tangible real world employable skills. To date 3 of the pupils doing the course at Musselburgh have picked up weekend work in local coffee businesses and we are also currently looking at several pupils coming in to do work experience at the Machina Roastery.
Musselburgh Grammar in turn have become a destination school for other schools to come and learn more about how to effectively deliver the SQA in Barista skills in schools. Further to this the pupils have also created a fantastic in house enterprise with their new coffee equipment and skills. Known as the Burgh Baristas, the coffee cart is a regular feature at all school events, with pupils selling coffees to parents with a fully developed coffee menu and price range. To date the pupils have made over £900 profit with the funds being reinvested back directly into the costs for the equipment.
Our work with Musselburgh Grammar has provided a springboard for our coffee education programme and a catalyst for us to achieve our ambition to develop employment opportunities for young people in Scotland. We are now working with a number of Schools across the Lothians, Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders and more to implement a similar programme and we are thrilled to have been awarded the Scottish Government 'Young Person's Guarantee' Accreditation for Edinburgh & the Lothians for our work with this programme.