If you’re looking for restaurant work these days, there are certainly worse places to look than Charleston, the beating heart of modern Southern cuisine (if we do say so ourselves). And thanks to a new course for students at four local schools, 56 high school students will get a leg up on the food and beverage industry.

Students at Garrett Academy of Technology and Stall, Burke, and North Charleston high schools started a training course in restaurant work last week, learning important front-of-house skills like personal presentation while also learning how to nail a job interview.

The course, called Teach the Need, is the brainchild of Charleston Grill General Manager Mickey Bakst and West Ashley barbershop owner Michael Miller, a longtime school volunteer who is running for a seat on the Charleston County School District Board of Trustees.

“With the current state of the economy, it’s becoming harder than ever for high school graduates who aren’t planning on attending college to find employment,” Bakst said. “These kids are plagued by unemployment and a lack of opportunities; this is a chance for us to give these kids a future, an opportunity they might not otherwise have.”

Bakst and Miller held a press conference last week in hopes that local restaurants would consider hiring the 56 upcoming graduates. “We’re asking area businesses to prove to these kids that their hard work and investment in their own skills really was worthwhile,” Miller said. “Let’s work together to reward hard work with meaningful opportunities.”

Four volunteers from local restaurants are teaching the course, and the first crop of graduates is set to finish Dec. 8. Bakst and Miller plan to bring the program to eight schools in January and eventually expand it to all Charleston County high schools.

For information on hiring graduates, volunteering, or donating to the program, call (843) 579-8342, e-mail teachtheneed@charlestonplace.com, or visit the Teach the Need Facebook page.