We’d like to introduce you to Neil Baxendale, who’s recently come on board team Scarf as our ‘Job Readiness Mentor’. Neil will be working one day a week to support recent and past graduate trainees as they move from working at Scarf Dinners to jobs in the real world. Neil’s not new to Scarf – he’s been a restaurant mentor in past programs and a keen diner too! We asked Neil a few questions to get to know him better.
What’s your role at Scarf?
I’m the Job Readiness Mentor. This sees me running group workshops and one-on-one sessions with Scarf graduates as they transition from the program to ongoing employment. My role is focussed on fostering the trainees’ strengths, building their confidence and providing really practical support with resumes, job hunting and job applications, interview skills and the like.
What did you study and where have you worked?
After leaving school, I went to University in Sheffield, England, to study history. After a few years working in various administrative roles, I started a job in a Young Offenders’ Institute as a facilitator of programs aiming to help young people in prison to make changes to their behaviour and to lead more positive lives. This led to me returning to University (via distance learning) to gain a Diploma in Criminal Justice Studies, enabling me to work for four years as a Probation Officer in the UK (similar to a Corrections Officer in Australia). After moving to Australia in 2014, I took on a role as a support worker for an outreach program, helping adults to reintegrate into society after leaving prison, enabling them to find housing, jobs, and to reconnect with their family and the wider community. If that sounds exhausting, believe me it was!
Alongside this, I have always had a love of working in hospitality. My first job at 15 was working in a family owned hotel in my hometown, a seaside town in the north of England. Starting as a kitchen porter, I went on to perform a number of roles over the years, waiting-on, working behind the bar, night watchman… they even let me make the beds occasionally. I’m still as terrible at this now as I was then! I returned to hospitality in 2011 after moving to London, and was fortunate enough to have been working as a Bar Supervisor in an East London pub during the London 2012 Olympics. There was an incredible, festival type atmosphere, and it was an amazing opportunity to meet sports fans from every corner of the globe. I have worked in various cafes, pubs and breweries, and would have to say that some of my happiest memories have come from working in hospitality. Everyone should try it!
When and how did you first get involved with Scarf?
After moving to Australia in 2014 to be with my fiancee (now my wife), I realised that other than a few of her friends, I didn’t really know anybody in this hemisphere, so I should put myself out there and meet a few people. Whilst job hunting, I saw a listing on Ethical Jobs for a Volunteer Hospitality Mentor. Hmm… an organisation that promotes social justice and allows me to dust off my hospitality skills AND meet some excellent new people… sounded right up my street! After an interview with Hannah, I knew that I wanted to be on board, so signed up for the Spring Scarf ‘14 season at Jorg in Fitzroy North. I then came back to mentor at The Lincoln a few seasons later, and have also been to most seasons as a diner. And I’m excited to have started in the Job Readiness Mentor role in August 2018. It’s such a privilege to be involved with Scarf, and I’m really looking forward to working with these inspirational people as Scarf continues to support young people in achieving their potential.
Why is it important for all young people to get access to fair training and work opportunities?
Work is an essential part of life in so many ways. Fundamentally, we need money to live – to pay rent, buy food… it’s hard to do much without money. There is more to it than this though – work can make us feel good – although it doesn’t always feel this way when climbing out of our comfy bed on a cold August morning in Melbourne! To use our skills and knowledge to provide a service to the community can give us a strong sense of belonging, of contributing to society. And working is also learning – even those people who have been working all their lives and approaching retirement will be learning new skills all the time. Furthermore, working helps us to grow as people, to develop relationships, independence, self respect and dignity. All of these things make it essential that young people, regardless of their background, are given the opportunity to use their skills and knowledge to contribute to society. Despite what you may hear in the media, this can only make our communities stronger!
What’s your favourite food/cuisine?
This basically changes depending on what delicious food is in front of me at the time! I’m yet to find a cuisine that I don’t like (some recent favourites have been Indian, Mexican and Japanese), but at the moment, having recently returned from a holiday there, I’m absolutely loving Vietnamese food. I ate enough Bun Cha in Vietnam to last me a lifetime, but am now looking forward to getting myself down to Footscray Market to see if I can find the ingredients to recreate it at home (although I know in my heart that it’s never the same).
We’re stoked to have you in the team, Neil!
Photo: Sanjay Thevaparan.