Only A Pavement Away’ (OAPA) is planning to open its first training café to help prison leavers, veterans and those facing homelessness find careers in the hospitality industry. With assistance from celebrity chef and ambassador Tom Aikens, the new initiative will supplement their existing activities and will be staffed by OAPA members, as well as an experienced management team, who will provide on-the-job training.

Greg Mangham, CEO and founder of OAPA, says “The café project will enable us to support even more members and get them off the streets and into work. We’re still in the development phase, but plan to roll out cafes in major cities across the UK. We’re lucky to have Tom on board and he supports all our campaigns.”

Greg founded the charity with his wife Gill in 2008 as a way of tackling homelessness and getting people into employment. He says “We discovered that there was a link between prison leavers, veterans and homelessness and there was a clear need for a strategic, practical not-for-profit solution to bridge the gap between those in need and the hospitality sector. Our aim is to get at least 700 people into work each year.”

OAPA works with 80 charities across the homelessness sector such as Crisis, The Salvation Army and St Mungo’s, as well as other organisations including Food Behind Bars, Job Centre Plus, Prince’s Trust and the Ministry of Defence. Connecting charities with employers such as the Ivy Collection, Greene King, Brewdog Benugo, Corbin & King and Fullers, the charity runs a ‘Jobs Board’ where employers post their vacancies.

Prior to being given access to the jobs board, prospective employees undertake three days’ work experience to learn about the industry. Following completion, they are given vouchers to purchase home essentials and can apply for jobs. Job seekers are also eligible to access the charity’s online “Life Skills Hub” which delivers a two-week course covering the basic skills of applying for jobs and living independently. Topics include career options, practical hospitality training, budgeting for independent living, IT, CV writing and interview skills. Participants receive a certificate at the end of the course.

The charity’s relationship managers support all parties involved to ensure applicants are placed in the best possible roles. Greg says “Once an individual starts working with us, they become a member of the charity. We recruit for all roles within hospitality from front of house and customer service to pot washing and cooking – and everything in between. The scheme is open to everyone and all ages – we have a member who is 72!”