Next Thursday, October 10, is the ribbon cutting for the brand new New England Center for Arts & Tecnology at 23 Bradston Street close to Boston's South End, Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods. The center, founded by British businessman and Duxbury resident Maarten Hemsley, already launched its first Culinary Arts job-training class last month, where 54 low-income and under-employed adults are in the process of learning the culinary skills that will allow them to find employment in the food industry.
Hemsley said "Our mission is to establish in Boston the successful educational programs developed in Pittsburgh by Bill Strickland that have already been replicated in six other cities across the US. We will launch with a 28-week culinary arts job-training program with a critical difference: NECAT is partnering with industry employers to ensure that when they graduate, our students will have a living-wage job and a step on a career ladder.
"All our job-training programs," noted Hemsley, "will be at no cost to students. We are also working with the local medical and healthcare industries to launch medical technician job-training programs early next year."
The culinary program begun in September includes 22 weeks of in-house training, Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and a six-week, fulltime internship. Graduates leave the program with a diploma, ServSafe credentials and emergency first aid qualifications. Upon completion of NECAT's accreditation process within two years, students will receive a diploma accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Tuition is covered for students thanks to the support of public and private funders.
The founders have developed partnerships and strong working relationships with academic powerhouses and employers, including Johnson & Wales University, Sodexo's healthcare division, City Fresh Foods, and Snap Chef, providing a full array of staff for universities, hospitals, restaurants, corporate clients and other employers in the hospitality industry.
The organization is managed by Executive Director Richard Ward, a veteran leader and visionary in Greater Boston's work-driven social development community. Joel Nitzberg is Director of Programs and Terry Willet is Culinary Director.
Nitzberg began his career at a sheltered workshop in New York City, working as a carpenter and later serving as a group and individual counselor using candle-making as a means to teach and enhance social and work skills of developmentally disabled adults. Nitzberg, who holds master's degrees in social work and education, has been a high school career counselor and community educator. He has also served as a senior faculty member at Cambridge College and was founder and director of the school's Institute for Lifelong Learning and Community Building.
Chef Willet for more than 20 years has worked in and managed restaurants, foodservice in retirement homes, catering operations and university dining services. He has also been a manager in the IT field. With knowledge of recipe and menu development, food and labor costing, and food industry-related software system design, he brings an eclectic background for teaching and inspiring the adults that NECAT will serve.
NECAT's newly finished headquarters include an 11,000 square foot second floor space that includes a large teaching kitchen equipped with the same food preparation spaces of some of Boston's finest restaurants.