One of the many opportunities offered at Santa Maria Community Services is our Workforce Experience program. This program partners with local businesses to provide our participants with on-the-job training, tangible job skills, and measurable certifications. One of our most requested partner programs is with BLOC Teaching Kitchen here in Price Hill.

BLOC Ministries partnered with Kroger’s “Zero Hunger Zero Waste” initiative to create the BLOC Teaching Kitchen. It’s an 8-week long mentoring, training and cooking program for individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 interested in working in the culinary field. BLOC Teaching Kitchen’s apprenticeship program gives students 84 hours of professional job training and provides certifications and skills required to get a good quality, well-paying job in the culinary arts.

Santa Maria sends several students per year to the teaching kitchen, and many of them have gone on to land careers in the culinary industry. One such participant is Makiayla Collier-Scott. Makiayla came to Santa Maria interested in our Workforce Experience program, and a desire to grow her skills in culinary arts. She was also interested in financial coaching and wanted to get her own apartment, as she was residing with family at the time of her enrollment.

Makiayla’s coach, Melissa Velez, helped her get accepted at BLOC Teaching Kitchen very quickly after getting enrolled in the Workforce Experience program. Like most of our participants, Makiayla was dealing with several barriers to success, the largest of those being financial instability. Her workforce coach made sure Makiayla took advantage of our financial coaching options, and Santa Maria assisted her with paying a past-due energy bill that was preventing her from getting utilities in her name. With Santa Maria’s assistance, Makiayla was able to find her own apartment and finally focus on her goals in culinary arts.

Makiayla excelled at BLOC and graduated in October 2021. Her BLOC mentors were so impressed with her baking skills that they agreed to start selling her pastries at the coffee shop they also run in Price Hill, BLOC Coffee Company on Mt. Hope Avenue. Makiayla recently accepted a position as a cake baker and decorator in the bakery at Walmart and is excited to pursue her new goal of opening her own small café, selling her own creations.