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Andy crosses town to get his caffeine (and job) fix

AimBig general manager Terry Wilson said the repetitive nature of making coffee suited many trainees, especially people with autism, who followed set steps.

Poised for success: Barista Andy Kenny serves a crowd at the launch of BusyBeans Cafe.

Poised for success: Barista Andy Kenny serves a crowd at the launch of BusyBeans Cafe. Credit:Andrew Gito

One trainee, however, ‘‘absolutely froze’’ when the blue cloth he used to wipe the milk steamer nozzle went missing.

“As soon as we got the blue cloth back, it was ‘bang’, now I’m back at it.’’

Mr Wilson said instead of working for as little as $2 an hour doing mundane tasks in a sheltered workshop BusyBeans staff could earn $20 to $25 an hour, interact with the community and receive compliments.

‘‘A lot of the people have been socially isolated. One participant said: ‘this beats being on the couch’. A lot are youth who finish school and fall into this chasm of ‘what am I going to do next? There’s nothing for me’.’’

AimBig chief executive Marcella Romero said some trainees, many of whom have intellectual disabilities, autism or Down syndrome, may take longer to make a coffee than other baristas, but customers are patient once they realise the cafe’s purpose.

Trainee Bianca Ward makes coffees for guests at the cafe launch.

Trainee Bianca Ward makes coffees for guests at the cafe launch.Credit:Darrian Traynor

Along with a caffeine fix, customers get satisfaction from ‘‘doing something good for the community’’.

In several months of training, Mr Kenny, who has an intellectual disability, has learnt how to take customer orders, grind the coffee, steam the milk and pour the perfect latte.

His previous jobs included working in childcare, selling wine and transporting patients in a hospital, but he has been unemployed for more than two years.

He said people wouldn’t give him a chance ‘‘and didn’t understand disability, which has been very frustrating in the past”.

He found the BusyBeans program online – he loves coffee, chatting to people and is seeking a permanent job in a small cafe.

He feels supported, with trainers checking ‘‘how you’re going’’.

Initially he struggled with multi-tasking and new skills such as using the coffee grinder.

‘‘It took me a while to get to proficiency stage,’’ he said. Now he’s ‘‘loving it’’ and for more than an hour at Wednesday’s launch at the cafe in Hall Street, near Puckle Street, served up lattes to an appreciative crowd including Moonee Valley mayor Narelle Sharpe.

‘‘I like getting out there, meeting the people, having that communication. It widens your social spectrum.’’

Two weeks ago he made about 80 coffees at a city corporate event.

‘‘We were overloaded with people, but eventually it was fine,’’ he said. ‘‘I enjoyed the rush.’’

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