The Argumes Café Lab is an initiative at Citrus National High School, Bulacan, Philippines funded by TELSTRA Philippines as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility program. Originally launched in 2018, the CNHS Café Lab was adapted from Dana Asia’s pilot Café Lab at North Pasay High School. The Café Lab is a working café providing hands-on training and work experience for senior high school students in business management skills and food and beverage preparation and service. At Citrus, the objectives of the project were very much in line with those of Pasay:
- To launch the Café Lab of CNHS Project in collaboration with partners from school and DepEd officials and other stakeholders
- To provide technical, management and operational skills to students and faculty of CNHS for café lab operations.
- To increase the skills and capacity of students for management, financial, marketing and operational aspects of running the café laboratory
- To produce funds for the National Certificate II of Senior High School learners in Cookery, Bread & Pastry Production, Food & Beverage Services and Bookkeeping.
- To serve healthy snacks to Citrus National High School students.
The CNHS Café Lab offers an integrated vocational training program, giving students skills that meet a variety of National Certificate (NC) requirements. In the Philippines, the National Certificate is issued by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to show that individuals meet the necessary level of national qualification competency required for many types of employment. The students at CNHS learnt these vocational skills in the working café setting, guided by teachers and training partners.
For students from impoverished families, graduation from high school is not always guaranteed, and many are not able to pass the NC certification. Research shows pass rates of students from low socioeconomic areas are much lower than wealthier areas and as a result, individuals from these poorer areas often struggle to find gainful employment to escape the cycle of poverty. The Argumes Café Lab was originally launched in August 2018 to give students in the surrounding area a unique training opportunity. Dana Asia worked closely with the school that manages and operates the Café Lab. Unfortunately, COVID pandemic restrictions forced schools to close in March 2020 and they remained closed until August 2022. Over the two academic years of operation before the school closures, the project achieved the following:
AY 2018- 2019
- 7 NC II Bookkeeping Passers
- 9 NC II Food and Beverage Services Passers
- 5 NC II Bookkeeping Passers
- 26 NC II Food and Beverage Services Passers
- 10 NC II Bread and Pastry Production Passers
- 6 NC II Cookery Passers
- PHP18, 000 (AU$480) raised for the future NC II Assessments of students
During the lockdown, the Café Lab underwent some renovations and after a long period of COVID lockdown, the Argumes Café Lab finally relaunched in April 2023. It is now providing training to senior high school students in pursuit of NC II-level certification to give them more opportunities for further education and employment upon graduation.