The Abilities Connection is an organization in Springfield that empowers people with disabilities and other barriers to reach their full potential through meaningful employment, training, and support.
Launched at COhatch – The Market in June of 2020, Fresh Abilities was established by TAC as a unique training program intended create a pipeline for workers with disabilities and other barriers interested in working in the food service industry. Fresh Abilities employees complete over 110 hours of training in food service, including food safety and preparation, customer service, and other related skills. Trainees then transition to working in the Fresh Abilities restaurant to gain hands-on experience in an in-demand industry before pursuing employment in local food service businesses.
Beginning in February, TAC will partner with Clark State, which will provide the classroom portion of training for Fresh Abilities employees. This partnership will allow for additional instruction to encompass skill building for future employment in any type of restaurant. Moreover, with this classroom training taking place on the Clark State campus, a new group of prospective students who may never have anticipated attending college will be exposed to higher education.
Gerritt Smith, director of Workforce and Business Solutions at Clark State, said the educational piece is important because the College is working with TAC to create a thorough curriculum for individuals to learn the culinary industry from food preparation, customer service, handling diversity in the workplace and effectively communicating with others.
“This is exciting for us to have something new to add to our menu of development opportunities to the community and organizations,” said Smith. “We are always looking to partner with organizations like TAC to provide solutions and this relationship will allow us to build off the great work TAC has already done and how they are preparing individuals for a career in the restaurant industry.”
Smith commented that with the food service continuing to face a critical worker shortage, skilled and experienced employees are highly sought after.
“This partnership can provide a pathway for those to enter into jobs to be well trained and prepared to succeed from day one,” he said.
“TAC is looking forward to growing our food service training in partnership with Clark State. Enabling people with disabilities and other barriers to learn and train in a college environment is unique for the food industry,” said Jim Zahora, CEO of The Abilities Connection. “We are also extremely grateful to COhatch for their partnership over the last three years. The Fresh Abilities concept was born from conversations with COhatch and the location was ideal for TAC team members to interact and engage with the community. It is time to take this concept to the next level.”
Fresh Abilities will relocate to the Eagle’s Nest at Clark State College’s Leffel Lane campus, with a soft opening scheduled for March. By operating the restaurant at Clark State, trainees will be able to do both their classroom and hands-on training in the same building. Additionally, the restaurant facility at Clark State provides the space and equipment necessary for Fresh Abilities to expand their menu, again, providing additional skill-building and experience to help build trainees’ resumes for future employment.
“Clark State is proud of this innovative partnership with TAC Industries,” said Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State. “This partnership is the very definition of collaboration, as TAC provides food service to our students and Clark State provides training to TAC employees. We are so pleased to see all the planning result in such a great opportunity for all!”
Zahora said TAC is excited about opening the restaurant to serve the students and staff at Clark State, but Fresh Abilities also welcomes the entire community and current customers to continue to dine with them. Every customer at Fresh Abilities provides even more experience to trainees to build their skills.
“There is open dining available in the restaurant area, as well as a beautiful outside patio,” he said. “Additionally, we will continue to offer curbside pick-up and Door Dash so you can get your Fresh Abilities fix even when you are in a hurry or can’t get out of the office or house. We are excited for our customers to try our new menu items as they launch.”
TAC looks forward to launching the restaurant at Clark State and kicking off the next training session.
“We are proud to prepare our trainees with the skills they need to be successful and for helping to connect our graduates with local food service businesses who are looking for high-quality staff,” Zahora said.
About Clark State College
Founded in 1962, Clark State College has campuses in Springfield, Beavercreek, Xenia and Bellefontaine, Ohio. Clark State offers the latest degree and certificate options in more than 131 professional fields. The annual economic impact of Clark State on Champaign, Clark, Greene and Logan Counties reached approximately $161 million in 2016. Registration is open year-round, and financial aid is available for those who qualify.
About The Abilities Connection
The Abilities Connection (TAC) is a nonprofit organization in Springfield, Ohio that serves people with disabilities and offers safe, inclusive places to thrive. At TAC, people with and without disabilities collaborate in accepting work environments to learn new skills, create new things, and reinforce their sense of purpose. TAC empowers people with disabilities and other barriers to achieve their full potential through meaningful employment, training, and support.