Em­pow­er­ment through food

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By SUZANNE LAZA­ROO star2@thes­tar.com.my

AGAK Agak looks to pro­vide jobs for young peo­ple from vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, equip­ping them with a well-rounded skill set for the F&B in­dus­try.

“Per­haps they are from un­der-priv­i­leged so­cio-eco­nomic back­grounds, or the dis­abled com­mu­nity, or just some­one who has been try­ing to get a job but can’t,” said Ili Su­laiman, co-founder of Agak Agak, along with Basira Yeusuff. Nizam Rosli is the third mem­ber of the part­ner­ship. Ap­pli­cants need to be be­tween the ages of 17 and 35.

With two in­takes a year, th­ese ap­pren­tices spend six months in the restau­rant it­self, learn­ing both in the kitchen and on the floor, and six months in the head of­fice; there, they learn ev­ery­thing from busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion to food pho­tog­ra­phy to restau­rant plan­ning.

“Basira han­dles the kitchen train­ing, and works with friends in F&B and con­sul­tants, and I do the front of house train­ing, as well as mar­ket­ing and brand­ing,” said Ili. “We have an ar­chi­tect who comes in to do a ses­sion on restau­rant de­sign, Nizam does ac­counts train­ing. We also work with var­i­ous part­ners. Leadero­nomics also con­ducts a ses­sion for us.

“Once the ap­pren­tices com­plete the year-long train­ing, they can ap­ply for jobs, and we sup­port them by work­ing with var­i­ous part­ners to get them place­ments,” said Ili. They con­tinue to men­tor them for a year af­ter they com­plete the pro­gramme.

As a start-up, Agak Agak is look­ing to grow slowly and sus­tain­ably – its first in­take had two ap­pren­tices, and its sec­ond has four. While any­one can ap­ply, Agak Agak also works with groups like Yayasan Chow Kit, MyKasih Foun­da­tion and KL Krash Pad to iden­tify po­ten­tial can­di­dates for the pro­gramme.

“It costs us about RM30,000 to RM40,000 per ap­pren­tice, per year. We couldn’t have done it with­out the sup­port of our cus­tomers – whether it’s dine-in, ca­ter­ing ser­vices, ham­pers, etc,” said Ili. “About 40% of our prof­its from the busi­ness are go­ing into this pro­gramme, and our ap­pren­tices are not bonded to us.

“Our pro­gramme is all about think­ing out of the box. You don’t have to be aca­dem­i­cally-ori­ented, it’s about pas­sion, skill and a de­sire to learn,” said Ili. “And the in­dus­try needs good peo­ple any­way.

“We aren’t the only ones to cre­ate change, of course, but we need more cham­pi­ons out there do­ing this kind of work.

“We hope to ex­pand to an­other lo­ca­tion as well, and run the pro­gramme from there. And we re­ally want to be the go-to for other so­cial en­trepreneurs in the F&B in­dus­try.” (From left) Nizam, Basira and Ili are the Agak Agak forces for good, look­ing to help im­pact young peo­ple’s lives by train­ing them to en­ter the F&B in­dus­try. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

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