There is a job training program in Fort Worth that’s having a big impact on people’s lives -- 16 weeks at a time.
It's the Tarrant Area Food Bank's Community Kitchen, a culinary job training program that's free to low income and unemployed men and women.
Students learn from the best chefs and leave with jobs -- and more.
When training is under way, there’s the same kind of hustle and bustle inside the Tarrant Area Food Bank’s kitchen as you would find at some of the city’s best hotels or restaurants.
But what’s happening there is changing lives.
The adult students involved hope the program can help them win the fight against unemployment and hard luck.
"It's a second chance,” said student Leslie Cooper. “I have some legal issues and I've been out of the workforce for a while. It’s more job training; it gets your foot in the door."
The students are led by chefs Tom McGrath and Manny Vasquez, who say they take people who’ve never worked in the food industry and teach them new skills.
"The experience here and the team building that we do here is another experience they'll take with them forever," McGrath said.
Guest appearances from Fort Worth’s top chefs get students accustomed to different styles, and when they leave the 16-week program, many will already have jobs as line cooks in local kitchens.
That’s how it worked out for graduate Juana Candela.
"It's a really good program, it's real hands on, they do teach you a lot for it being a 16 week program,” Candela said. “If you come into this program you better come in wanting to learn. "
Candela is so grateful, she comes back to volunteer.
"I've been through a lot,” she said. “And I just want to give back."
And after years of unemployment or underemployment, the other students say they are equally hopeful about the impact it could have on their futures.
"You've gotta put forth the effort,” said student Daniel Smith. “We’re here on time every day, it's a job and school at the same time. You get a lot out of it."
The students also produce frozen one-dish dinners for agencies like Meals on Wheels.