Dine Academy’s Founder, Sonia Tiatia

Three words to describe Dine Academy? Industry driven bootcamp.

Dine Academy takes teenagers in need of career support and offers them hospitality experience to make them work ready. Their goal is to turn them into employable young people through hands on training, first hand experience and personal mentoring in a demanding work environment; a process that is intensive but effective.

Dine Academy is the brainchild of Sonia Tiatia, an industry professional who came up with the idea after working as the school liaison for an industry training organisation. Her job was to match companies with young apprentices, but she struggled to find teenagers with the preliminary skills and employment history to take on these roles. Concerned with the number of motivated young people unable to find employment, Sonia decided that a programme was needed to transform these teens and make them work ready. She now works in partnership with employers and  with  local high schools to identify young people bursting with potential, help them through a hospitality ‘bootcamp’, and then is a supportive ear for DINE trainees and networks needing new team members, tertiary/career discussions, or apprenticeship and training options.

One of the most impressive things about DINE’s process is the bootcamps typically only last six days through the school holidays, but in that time the participants experience transformative change. From identifying which aspect of hospitality they might be best suited to and getting a better understanding of the work ethic required in the industry, to most importantly developing the confidence to succeed in a role like this. Sonia compares this “employability revamp” to taking a B Grade house and renovating or ‘flipping it’ into an A Grade. In just a couple of weeks. The other most impressive thing about DINE is their success rate of 80-100% of young people offered ongoing paid employment (casual and part time shifts while still at school) after just one week of training.

Young people often find the door closed on them because they don’t have the ‘experience’. Employers are not always willing to take a risk on a new applicant who is unfamiliar with employment expectations and work ethic, so teens fail to access opportunities that would only be available to someone with confidence and commercial experience. But Dine Academy meets young people at the level that they are at, and challenges them beyond their comfort zones until they break through their confidence and cultural barriers that often create cycles of unemployment. By nurturing young people into their first jobs while they are still completing high school,  Dine is helping develop life-long work habits that reduce hardship and the risk of welfare dependency.

Sonia feels that the support of Launchpad Work has enabled her to expand Dine Academy’s impact. With templates on how to articulate the idea to industry partners and how to create a sustainable financial model, the programme has graduated from a voluntary labour of love to an emerging pre-employment training business. Her mentors have given her confidence and access to their networks, with specialised expertise in financial forecasting and commercial branding that has shed light on the value of her business model and values.

Dine Academy initially began as a school funnelled programme, but with an increase in support, it has recently extended its reach to include unemployed young people (not in employment, education or training, NEET). Their goal is to train and support as many young people into employment as possible. Many teens feel like they don’t have options, but Dine is giving them the opportunity to jump into new environments and develop them into confident employable young adults. By providing open training focussed on employment and engagement, Dine is determined to empower young people with hope, motivation and brighter futures.