The next generation of culinary artists will have a brand new space to hone their skills and receive a professional certification before they even graduate high school as the foundation has been laid for an addition to the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, which will become a full service café.
Slated to open and begin serving customers on Dec 5, 2017, the 2,000 square foot addition will feature an inviting façade and 100 seats, including outdoor seating, to accommodate customers, giving students invaluable hands-on experience in hospitality and food service.
The approximately $950,000 addition is state funded and is being constructed by E.W. Burnam of Warwick. It will be open three days a week, twice for regular customers to come in via appointments and grab a coffee or a pastry, and once a week for functions and events. Students will be at the helm of all operations, preparing food, baking, taking orders and catering off-site in addition to cleaning and managing the day-to-day tasks.
William McCaffrey, Director of the Warwick Area Career and Technical Center, said that the goal of the culinary arts program is for students to be able to earn an accredited certificate from the American Culinary Federation by the time they graduate, so they can move onto a post-secondary program or begin work in the field immediately. It takes three years to earn the certification.
The program will be open to all Warwick high school students but only has a capacity of about 50 students. Students in a technical program spend half their day learning the required general education subjects like math, science and history, and the other half in their technical area of focus. McCaffrey agreed with the notion that technical programs in high school offer the best of both a traditional education and a targeted technical education.
“I think these programs are helpful because the students are at a young age and they’re trying make a decision of what they want to do or not do,” McCaffrey said. “They don’t have to front a lot of money to attend a post-secondary program and then, after they complete the program, realize ‘This isn’t for me.’ They have the opportunity to decide if this is for them.”
Warwick students have access to 16 total technical school programs, including 12 (soon to be 13) at Toll Gate, two at West Warwick High School and one at Pilgrim High School. Each program offers some pathway to begin working in a chosen field immediately, whether through state certifications that they can earn or by giving them the experience and skills necessary to work in that field right away.
“It’s something that is necessary in this day and age,” McCaffrey said, adding that, should a student wish to earn the same kind of certificates offered through these programs after high school, they would need to spend at least two years at a trade school and pay out of their own pocket to obtain it.
The new café will be a physical representation of the benefits of technical education, and it will vastly improve upon the old culinary arts space, which was a small, windowless room tucked away in the corner of the school that was not easily handicap-accessible.
“This is going to be much more user friendly for the customer...It will have windows and look like a full service café,” McCaffrey said. "It’s going to showcase what the kids can really do."