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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Jay, you have some good points. Agreed that we shouldn't expect overnight marketing miracles out of this... it'll be a long process. Also agreed on the importance of encouraging owners to have the right mindset.

Paul, that is a good question, one I was pondering last night as well. There'd be some details to work out, for sure.
Paul Yates said:
Regarding the public's association of BGA Certification with quality, that will never happen unless quality shops meet the BGA halfway by getting involved and providing visibility for the BGA. The BGA may need to consider offering SHOP certification, as well as individual barista certification.

Getting the shops involved would be as easy as indicating to them that the public would be looking for the certification to indicate quality, thus increasing their customer base. It's a bit of a 'chicken/egg' symbiotic relationship. Investment in the future may or may not pay off, but not investing is bound to not pay off.
The 'got milk' campaign is a red herring. Sure, everyone know is, but has anyone really decided to change their milk consumption based on that? I still buy my milk from the same place, in the same quantities. I dunno, maybe I'm weird.
Just as soon as any indie shop realizes that they have something that people will go out of their way to get, they'll start to advertise it. The BGA just has to convince them to sell the sizzle. Perhaps a BGA shop sanctioning committee? Shop standards that include wiping the steam-wand every drink, grind per shot, no superautos, responsibly sourced coffee, rotating stock for freshness, and a menu that doesn't include 'venti' anywhere? ; >

Great ideas, and it should be really easy to exclude the giant chains that haven't got a clue what quality espresso is like.
The bottom line is, thanks to Starbucks, baristas have become viewed as nothing more than order takers and button pushers, and we have to turn the tide as to how baristas should be respected for their craft. And certification is a great start and gives us a framework for that to happen. For people to take baristas more seriously, understanding that the certification gives a clear indication that a shop takes their quality seriously. And it won't happen this year, or next year, but in years to come. People who simply complain about a lack of respect for baristas, a lack of competitive pay for the work done, aren't offering better solutions to this problem. We, in the BGA are. We won't be forming unions, but certification is a great way to not only see positive change from customer's perceptions, but also assuring shop owners that their baristas have completed course work that is cutting edge material, led by the best trainers in the industry, at extremely discounted costs. For example, a day of training with Heather Perry, two-time US champ, costs $500. A class led by Heather Perry at SCAA events costs a fraction of that at $125.
So, remember, we're all on the same page, with the same goals. Different people have different ideas on how to accomplish those goals, and we as the BGA, welcome those ideas. We welcome and respect all voices of the conversation.
Hate to bump my own post, but did anybody have any comments on this? This is something that I've pondered quite a bit, and I was looking to see what the rest of you thought.

I'll give you that the cost of these sessions compares favorably to the cost of other professional training programs. However I think the question stands - is the current cost structure conducive to working baristas attending on their own dime?

As Jason and others consider changes to the way BGA training events are priced and structured, I think its important to consider questions like these.

Brady said:
In my mind, BGA certification ought to be accessible enough so that a working barista can pursue it on their own time and budget. I don't think that's currently the case.
Don't get me wrong, I think its great that shop owners are starting to line up and send their staffs to these things but, if we think about it, the BGA's constituency isn't the cafe, its the working barista.
I'd love to see a scenario where motivated baristas can pursue certification on their own as a path to a better gig. Think about what that says to a perspective employer - not only is this candidate already capable of doing the job, they are demonstrating initiative and a professional mindset. But that can only happen if certification is truly accessible to them.

To me, the current structure of training within a SBW is very much a SCAA approach. Perhaps we need to consider what a more barista-centric approach would be?
Brady, I think you bring up some valid points, but what you're not taking into consideration is that we have no support outside of the SCAA. I agree it should be as accessible as possible to as many as possible, but it's just not practical. Think about it, to have classes held all over the country all year long, with the highly qualified instructors as we have in SCAA labs, what would that cost be? Who would pay for it? Do you think your $45 would cover it? And you can't raise the price of labs or tests, people are already griping about the costs as they are. I, too, see that baristas should take it upon themselves to build their own skillset, knowing it will help their future. I, also, know the financial limits of most working baristas. The fact is, that there are regional skill building workshops held all over the country, at a bargain of a price, every year. Many people have taken advantage of them, and seen the value.
I don't see how the current options aren't barista-centric. The whole certification is meant to be barista-centric.

Brady said:
Not to bump my own post, but did anybody have any thoughts on this?

Brady said:
In my mind, BGA certification ought to be accessible enough so that a working barista can pursue it on their own time and budget. I don't think that's currently the case.

Don't get me wrong, I think its great that shop owners are starting to line up and send their staffs to these things but, if we think about it, the BGA's constituency isn't the cafe, its the working barista.

I'd love to see a scenario where motivated baristas can pursue certification on their own as a path to a better gig. Think about what that says to a perspective employer - not only is this candidate already capable of doing the job, they are demonstrating initiative and a professional mindset. But that can only happen if certification is truly accessible to them.

To me, the current structure of training within a SBW is very much a SCAA approach. Perhaps we need to consider what a more barista-centric approach would be?
I thought I would share a couple of experiences I had in one indie shop yesterday. It was a small espresso counter located in a public library, one that had quite a following, if the crowd in line behind me was any indicator. I was impressed to see the menu include a "Real Cappuccino", which was a 7oz capp, served only in ceramic. Of course, I am going to watch the process. Placed my order after chatting with the lone older man running the counter. I became aware of several procedural discrepancies, but didn't point them out.

1. No bar rags in sight.
2. When I asked the gentleman what he dosed the basket at, he looked confused, and said he just used the fill line in the basket. I will say that his dosing technique was adequate, although he tapped the portafilter overly much after the tamp. And he didn't use preground espresso, running the grinder with each shot, so yay him! And I timed his shots. About 22-25 seconds, with decent crema retention. So yay, again!
3. The steam wand wasn't cleaned with each drink. Ewww.
4. He told me the NS Appia was top of the line. I didn't bother correcting that, although it was adequate for that shop, certainly.
5. He voluntarily told me that he couldn't do latte art, which was fine with me, as I can't yet, either. That doesn't make it a good drink, just pretty.
6. Adding milk to his previously-steamed milk that remained in his overly-large steam pitcher. Naughty, that!

Here's the thing. The proof is in the cup, right? It was a good capp! And I chose to enjoy it, rather than obsess over what I considered no-nos. With a little more training, this shop could be quite good.

And now this post seems totally random, but when I started it seemed like it applied....must be tired from traveling...sorry
Jason Dominy said:
Brady, I think you bring up some valid points, but what you're not taking into consideration is that we have no support outside of the SCAA. I agree it should be as accessible as possible to as many as possible, but it's just not practical. Think about it, to have classes held all over the country all year long, with the highly qualified instructors as we have in SCAA labs, what would that cost be? Who would pay for it? Do you think your $45 would cover it? And you can't raise the price of labs or tests, people are already griping about the costs as they are. I, too, see that baristas should take it upon themselves to build their own skillset, knowing it will help their future. I, also, know the financial limits of most working baristas. The fact is, that there are regional skill building workshops held all over the country, at a bargain of a price, every year. Many people have taken advantage of them, and seen the value.
I don't see how the current options aren't barista-centric. The whole certification is meant to be barista-centric.

Hi Jason. Before I say anything else, I thought I'd mention that I'm glad that you and so many other BGA EC members are involved in this discussion, you all obviously bring a lot to it. Glad you are finding useful feedback from it - this is meant to be a helpful and constructive discussion.

I am certainly not suggesting that classes be held constantly, for all the reasons you stated. My questions was just this:
Does the community feel that certification classes are reasonable accessible to the average working barista?

This is a critical question that we all should be interested in hearing the answer to.

To your point - I hope that everyone does understand the limitations that the BGA is working within. However, that's why I feel like discussions like this are so important. When faced with limited resources, it is important to know where to focus energies and funding. Its important to know what the expectations are, so that the organization knows how to go about meeting them. That way, challenges can be approached with a solution that your members will appreciate.

If a BGA member follows the current recommendation and attends the full slate of classes at a SCAA-SBW, they will pay the SCAA between $425 and $500 to train and be certified. Checks payable to the SCAA, btw. This is a big price break vs non-members, who'd pay upwards of $600. While this is a huge bargain on paper, once you add cost of travel and lost wages I think that your average working BGA member barista can't even afford that.

Even with promises of wage incentives, which don't yet exist (yet they hopefully will, soon).

Yes, recent SBW's have been well attended. My suspicion is that most attendees had their fees paid by their employer. Perhaps that's incorrect.

Look, all I'm asking is, what do people think about this?

If people do agree that the cost of certification is too expensive, perhaps the BGA should consider other ways to train and certify that are still effective, yet less expensive for them, and therefore can be less expensive for the membership?

Good discussion. Hopefully people are finding it useful.
Jason Dominy said:
Brady, I think you bring up some valid points, but what you're not taking into consideration is that we have no support outside of the SCAA...

Nope.

1. Sponsors
2. The Membership

With a little money and a vast pool of knowledgeable people, what can't you do?

...and I do mean you, cause as we may recall, I'm terrible with sponsors :)
BTW, for those that are interested in helping with this certification rollout, there is another "Train the Trainer" event coming up in about a month in Burlington Vermont.

Check out the info here

"This course, designed by the SCAA Professional Development Committee, prepares participants to deliver effective Adult Workplace Education. Topics include adult learning concepts, designing effective PowerPoint presentations, and classroom management strategies. All participants will be awarded the SCAA Lead Instructor Credential* upon completion.

*All Lead/Station Instructors will be required to have this credential by the 23rd Annual Exposition in Houston, TX. Must be an active BGA, RG, or SCAA member to be a Lead/Station Instructor and to attend the Instructor Development Program."

So, if you have a couple of days to spend in sunny BTV next month, this would be a nice little trip. FWIW, I can think of very few places that are more excellent in July than Burlington.
I'll be @ the training in Burlington, also - allowing you the rare opportunity to meet someone from the internet!
This. I feel the same way. I'm a BGA member, but I have yet to complete certification b/c I wasn't able to leave for Anaheim. I'd love to get every level of certification and then eventually help w/ classes or teach. I am not sure how to go about this other than slowly accumulating classes. However, at this pace it may take me a few years to reach that goal.

However, I do have to say that the potential that lies in the BGA is really exciting, and I'm eager to get involved as it grows.

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... ; >
Thanks Brady,
I would be there if I could.
Joseph

Brady said:
BTW, for those that are interested in helping with this certification rollout, there is another "Train the Trainer" event coming up in about a month in Burlington Vermont.

Check out the info here

"This course, designed by the SCAA Professional Development Committee, prepares participants to deliver effective Adult Workplace Education. Topics include adult learning concepts, designing effective PowerPoint presentations, and classroom management strategies. All participants will be awarded the SCAA Lead Instructor Credential* upon completion.

*All Lead/Station Instructors will be required to have this credential by the 23rd Annual Exposition in Houston, TX. Must be an active BGA, RG, or SCAA member to be a Lead/Station Instructor and to attend the Instructor Development Program."

So, if you have a couple of days to spend in sunny BTV next month, this would be a nice little trip. FWIW, I can think of very few places that are more excellent in July than Burlington.

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