Unemployed and underempoloyed benefit from free bartending program

Students gather for The Learning Skills for Life bartending program created to help people interested in careers in hospitality. Wednesday, April 26, 2017 (ABC7 photo)

In an auditorium in Southeast Washington nearly two dozen students gather with one purpose. 23-year-old Jazmyne Stokes told ABC7News, "I can light up a room, so I feel it was just meant to be for me to be a bartender."

The Learning Skills for Life bartending program is designed to help students like Stokes reach that goal. The three week course targets the unemployed and underemployed who have their eyes on careers in hospitality. Training that could cost $600 is offered at no charge.

Anthony Thompson hopes to eventually qualify for a job as a restaurant manager. "Actually it's a lot of etiquette not just in making the drinks but in how you operate as a bartender in general," he said.

The beverage company Diageo and other community partners launched the course in Washington, D.C. in January. The program doesn't only offer training behind the bar, but life and career skills as well. Erica Johnson, Director of Corporate Relations at Diageo explained, "What they're learning in that section is about resume writing, interviewing skills, even how to dress for an interview." Johnson says 85 percent of local program graduates have landed jobs.

John Wesley, a father of four, has high expectations. "To get a bartending job but hopefully even from there maybe becoming a mixologist or even having my own venue; my own establishment overtime," he said.

The Learning Skills for Life program is available to D.C. area residents and is also offered in Connecticut, Texas and Arkansas.

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