Local restaurant owner Mickey Bakst and businessman Michael Miller teamed up to create a new curriculum for Charleston-area high school students to prepare them for careers in the restaurant industry. The Teach the Need program is currently offered in four schools, with plans to expand next year.
By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published Oct. 23, 2012
Mickey Bakst said it was becoming difficult to find skilled people to work in the front of his restaurant, so when local businessman Michael Miller approached him about creating a new training program for local students he knew he had to do it.
“We are not finding the right employees to feed our restaurants, to serve our guests,” said Bakst of Charleston Grill.
The two men founded Teach the Need, a pilot program in four Charleston-area high schools. Together, with four instructors actively working in restaurants, high school students are learning the basics of professionalism, interview skills and how to perform all the duties required to work as a restaurant server.
“Charleston is a wonderful city and we have some of the best restaurants in the state,” Miller said.
Miller approached Bakst in November with the idea to help diversify the restaurant workforce. By May they lined up donations from Temmey Novit, general manager of FRS Charleston and Cintas, to create restaurant dining room mock-ups in four schools.
Students enrolled in the program take six classes over the course of 12 weeks. The inaugural class will graduate in December and Bakst vows to help them find jobs in the industry.
“We are going to place these kids in jobs,” he said. “That is our promise to the community.”
Miller said the course is designed to be an alternative for students who are either unable or do not desire to attend college. The goal is to provide a stable source of income and a career path, he said.
Bakst said students who complete this program will be well-equipped to follow along the same path he took throughout his career in the restaurant industry.
“Forty years ago I started waiting tables,” he said. “Forty years later I’m still in this industry I love. I have been proud every single day of what I do.”
Teach the Need is operating in Garrett Academy, Stall, Burke and North Charleston high schools. In January, Bakst and Miller are hoping to expand the program to four additional schools.
Bakst said he hopes more restaurants and restaurant workers will participate in the program, by acting as instructors or by agreeing to hire graduates of the program.