Hi,

I thought of you all today as I looked back through some of the old discussions in the BGA group, and ran across this gem.

So its a little dated, but some of the questions and points that the contributors raised were pretty good ones. This discussion ended up being quite a motivator for me when I was a Chapter Rep, and I thought some of you that hadn't seen it might find it an interesting read.

For those bX members that weren't aware, we have a huge new batch of people "in power" within the BGA, including a new Chair - Scott Lucey.  With that in mind, I thought it might be time to raise this discussion again.

So, why should a barista join the BGA?

What sort of neat stuff does the BGA have planned for the membership?

What's happening with certification?

Where is the guild headed?

Looking forward to a good discussion on this.

b

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Incidentally, here's the latest version of the BGA Membership Benefits summary.
i think i mentioned this to you on facebook, brady, but i'd like to get myself and my employees BGA certified, but it doesn't seem like there's enough of a consistent training program to get it done anytime soon. i think better communication about when and where BGA classes are being held would help me tremendously. without lots of professional training opportunities, i likely won't join. the discounts and an email newsletter aren't really enough to entice, at least for me.
Yes, you did. Was that just after you opened (which was the same time as Charlotte SBW/SERJ) or right around SERBC? There were opportunities at Anaheim, not sure that was an option for you though. Unfortunately, still nothing local on the schedule that I'm aware of until later this fall. I suspect that Jason Dominy may join this conversation and he can confirm. You can also contact Daniel Thompson, your SE Chapter Rep.
If you're going to link to critical writings of the BGA, I think it might also be interesting to link to one of our more recent ones... http://whynotcoffee.com/2010/05/31/convince-me-otherwise/#comments
What I like most here are the number of great comments not only from out own BGA leadership but the feedback from other respectable figures. Admittingly, I was unsure that people even I look up to, were in support of the BGA, but they are and I thank the many number of people who stuck up for what we're trying to do in the comments section... Which probably leads to the question, "What are you trying to do!?!?"

The BGA is trying to advance the professionalism of the barista. We strive to be an open door to the least experienced yet exist as a room in which even the most experienced are used for their expertise and passion. We're utilized by the SCAA as the go-to organization for espresso preparation standards and will continue to be supported in our attempts to highlight the importance of the role of the barista.

Our certification program hit the ground running in Atlanta and has already proven it's worthiness. While some of our level 1 content may be easy to an experienced member, it's the first time our Specialty Industry has had a clear way to measure a barista's skill, and for many people passing does not come easy and second attempts must be made.
Our certification program was also developed to be never-ending. Great discussions were had discussing whether or not we should even toy around with this word, "certification." We're very aware of the danger in this word, and this idea of being a guiding force. All leaders helping develop this program agreed that our program was not meant to have an end. In this development we hoped and dreamed that the first group of students passing level 1, 2, 3, would be the individuals chosen to contribute ideas for levels 4 or 5 or 6... We're leaving the door open and can't wait to see who makes it this far.

Thanks again for those who have stuck up for our guild. I take great ownership in what I do and 5 years ago never would have guessed that I would one day be in the position of Executive Chair. I also never would have thought the SCAA would even as me my opinion on their industry standards and how the industry should evolve. Ending the "dosing method" (one pull of the handle for one shot, two pulls for a double) is just scratching the surface when telling the stories of what we've done. Given where our levels of technology stand and where they're going, I'm eager to know where we can go in the upcoming years.
If you have ideas and if you may be passionate to represent the barista's side of the specialty coffee industry, join, renew, and participate to what's already going on.

-scott lucey
Ahhh, what a great discussion. I'd missed that conversation. Thanks for the link, Scott.
I realize I should also answer your questions Brady!


So, why should a barista join the BGA?
A barista should join the BGA because he/she is passionate and interested in his/her craft so much that they want to be directly linked to their industry.
I joined the guild because I wanted to be as professional as I could. I was surprised that all I had to do was sign up and that was it, humorously I thought there might be rules & regulations dictating how I could be involved but the opposite is true. Within one year I was emailing questions to other members, attending events, and participating more than I thought I could.

What sort of neat stuff does the BGA have planned for the membership?
GREAT QUESTION!
Camp Pull-a-Shot will be happening in October just outside of San Diego. The Roaster's Guild has been having a retreat for 10 years now and is surely looked forward to by it's members, we hope Camp Pull-a-Shot will be a great way to build more community from within.

What's happening with certification?
Certification rolls forward! Level 1 rolled out in Atlanta, Some level 2 content rolled out in Anaheim but no test, next year in Houston we will be testing students on level 2 and rolling out some level 3 content. Soon we will have to reach a point of plateau to foster time for more people to continue testing.

Where is the guild headed?
Our organization is aging nicely, maturing with new membership and evolving accordingly with new leadership. Now more than even the SCAA recognizes the importance of the barista and as members gain credentials through our certification they will become candidates chosen to represent the industry whether it be as a trainer or instructor at skill building workshops or serving on a new council developing a new competition designed to highlight a baristas ability to make a siphon or pour over - those things don't even exist yet, but the point I'm trying to make is that anything is possible.

* I also think it's important to make it clear we are not a union nor will ever be. I think many of the expectations I hear seem very similar to the expectations of a union... Guild are drastically different from Unions.

Thanks for your thought Brady
sL
from a purely economic standpoint, let's consider the feasibility of me, an east coast shop owner, and my 2 full time employees attaining level 1 certification this year.

we would have had to attend the SCAA expo in anaheim, since nothing seems to be happening in the southeast currently. round trip airfare is probably ~$600 per person to LAX and back. then we'd have to get a hotel room and rent a car, plus food, etc. that's probably $1000 between us. so just for the trip itself we'd be looking at a solid $2800.

then, as detailed on the scaa website, there are 5 classes plus a test for level 1 certification.

CP101
Introduction to Espresso Part 1 - $225
CP102
Introduction to Espresso Part 2 - Included with part 1
GE103
Introduction to Cupping - $125
CP151
Introduction to Coffee Brewing & Extraction - $225
CP103
Introduction to Customer Service - Free (with badge, which is $95-$125)
CP190
Level 1 Certification Test - $45

ok. so i understand that only the test and CP103 are required for certification level 1, but that begs the question of why even host the other classes. if myself and my two employees wanted to take the full slate and then the test, we'd be looking at $620 apiece, plus the trade show badge.

thus, to gain level 1 BGA certification, at minimum (travel, customer service and test), i'd be out $3200. maximum (full slate of classes, including trade show badge) i'd be out $5000.

as a business owner, i have to ask myself whether that makes economic sense. i need to ask whether that investment will pay off. a mere casual crunching of the numbers tells me that it will be highly unlikely that telling my customers we're all certified baristas will bring in $3200 during a calendar year. it's also unlikely to improve my coffee to the point that i will gain that much business - my baristas are pretty good right now, i doubt level 1 certification would push them to a point that people will start knocking the doors to down to drink their coffee.

the main thing i would look to the BGA for is that certification, and without there being a local and affordable schedule of classes, it doesn't seem worth it.
I still have some of the same expectations of a Guild that I had in that original conversation. If you want certification and Guild membership to be valuable, you have to show it's value.
Once a coffee enthusiast can see a BGA certification on the outside of a shop and know that they cat inside is going to knock him out as opposed to perform the mystical button-push, it becomes a 'brand', if you will. It begins to say, "This is where you can find 'real' espresso". Now it's valuable on both sides of the counter.
The other thing that would make it work is to get the reps to provide the classes where the Baristi are, not the other way around. Classes that result in certification should be held in, at least, the major metropolii in the region that the rep is, erm... repping.
These are the costs, travel, accommodations, bureaucratic necessities, that the membership fees and certification fees are supposed to cover. If a rep isn't able to travel to the masses, he should be able to house the masses in his home area and trade their work for his training. If not a Journeyman (journey being part of the gig) then a Master. If he's not qualified to teach, then someone has failed him.
I know, the 'guild' part isn't really indicative of an actual guild. But there was a reason that the actual guilds had their structures. It was to control the quality of the work that was done in the guilds name.
First order of business ought to be to make certain that each Rep is prepared to teach and certify level one folk. The next order of business is to start scheduling places and times for those interested in level one certification and arranging travel and accommodations for the rep to go out and do that.
Once that ball is rolling, follow with level two, three, and then a certification course. Once a person has reached their third level, they should be able to start certifying and training level one folk. (and that should be part of the level three training and testing!)

Or, at least, that's what I'd do if I were King... ; >
Jared Rutledge said:
from a purely economic standpoint, let's consider the feasibility of me, an east coast shop owner, and my 2 full time employees attaining level 1 certification this year.

we would have had to attend the SCAA expo in anaheim, since nothing seems to be happening in the southeast currently....



...thus, to gain level 1 BGA certification, at minimum (travel, customer service and test), i'd be out $3200. maximum (full slate of classes, including trade show badge) i'd be out $5000.

as a business owner, i have to ask myself whether that makes economic sense. i need to ask whether that investment will pay off. a mere casual crunching of the numbers tells me that it will be highly unlikely that telling my customers we're all certified baristas will bring in $3200 during a calendar year. it's also unlikely to improve my coffee to the point that i will gain that much business - my baristas are pretty good right now, i doubt level 1 certification would push them to a point that people will start knocking the doors to down to drink their coffee.

the main thing i would look to the BGA for is that certification, and without there being a local and affordable schedule of classes, it doesn't seem worth it.

Jared, this is a great point. A key part of the certification rollout is accessibility. By that, I think we mean convenient location and affordability.

Right now, the big training opportunity happens every year at SCAA Expo. As I understand it, there are two other possible ways that training will happen - Sanctioned Jams and Skill Building Workshops. Both of these are initiated by an entity other than the BGA, be that a coffee community, roaster, shop, or other group.

In the case of the Southeast Region, last year we had training opportunities at SCAA Expo, an Atlanta SBW, and the Charlotte SBW/SERJ. This year, we'll probably just have the one SBW later in the year, though that stuff is all still in the works.

I'll mention that if you are interested in helping to organize a BGA-sanctioned jam or SBW in Asheville, there are lots of folks that would help you out :). Not trying to be a smartass, that's exactly how these things happen.


Affordability is another issue. Your point is well made, especially since it is very strongly recommended that all candidates for BGA Certification take all of the SCAA courses. That's a big chunk of change, however it does reflect the costs associated with putting on an event like this in its current form. Remember that instructors must all be SCAA certified, and there aren't exactly 5-10 of them in every metropolitan area.

These are tough issues that are still in the process of being worked out. Hopefully conversations like these will help things. Having some of the decision-makers involved in the discussion is a great thing. Thanks for joining us, Scott and others...
Chris said:
I still have some of the same expectations of a Guild that I had in that original conversation. If you want certification and Guild membership to be valuable, you have to show it's value.
Once a coffee enthusiast can see a BGA certification on the outside of a shop and know that they cat inside is going to knock him out as opposed to perform the mystical button-push, it becomes a 'brand', if you will. It begins to say, "This is where you can find 'real' espresso". Now it's valuable on both sides of the counter. The other thing that would make it work is to get the reps to provide the classes where the Baristi are, not the other way around. Classes that result in certification should be held in, at least, the major metropolii in the region that the rep is, erm... repping. These are the costs, travel, accommodations, bureaucratic necessities, that the membership fees and certification fees are supposed to cover. If a rep isn't able to travel to the masses, he should be able to house the masses in his home area and trade their work for his training. If not a Journeyman (journey being part of the gig) then a Master. If he's not qualified to teach, then someone has failed him.
I know, the 'guild' part isn't really indicative of an actual guild. But there was a reason that the actual guilds had their structures. It was to control the quality of the work that was done in the guilds name.
First order of business ought to be to make certain that each Rep is prepared to teach and certify level one folk. The next order of business is to start scheduling places and times for those interested in level one certification and arranging travel and accommodations for the rep to go out and do that.
Once that ball is rolling, follow with level two, three, and then a certification course. Once a person has reached their third level, they should be able to start certifying and training level one folk. (and that should be part of the level three training and testing!)

Or, at least, that's what I'd do if I were King... ; >

Chris, this is an interesting idea. Totally impractical in the current structure, but interesting.

Disseminating certified trainers throughout the region is, I believe, a current goal. Putting it all on the shoulders of a volunteer Chapter Rep is not practical. For example, as Southeast rep, I had North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana... and probably missed one too. Would I have paid out-of-pocket to do this traveling, or did you think your $45 was going to cover that?

However, I don't know why any of these SCAA-Certified trainers couldn't organize single classes in their home cities every month or two... heck, most of them are probably taking part in things like this anyway... I know we run all kind of instructional sessions as part of our local coffee community.

I also don't know why the basic curriculum requirements couldn't be sent out to any of the other training organizations for their use... so then guys like ABC, etc could make sure that graduates of their courses could pass the BGA exams. Quality training is happening everywhere, after all...

Good thoughts.
do the skill building workshops fulfill the requirements for BGA certification?
Jared Rutledge said:
do the skill building workshops fulfill the requirements for BGA certification?

That depends on the workshop. If the organizer does it right, it should.

One detail that I neglected to mention was the certification exam. It requires a couple of other details, like certified examiners. It is doable though... we were able to teach and certify a whole batch of people in a single weekend at the Charlotte SBW last year.

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