Daniel Ponte, Executive Chef and Brian Newton, Kitchen Steward, Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex

A Star Player In the Liberty Grand Kitchen

When Ingrid Rochard, Stewardship Manager at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto, Ontario decided to hire an individual with an intellectual disability she was initially very apprehensive.

“I needed someone to meet all the requirements of the job and be able to keep up with a demanding and hectic pace of a kitchen in a five star special event facility,” said Rochard. “I was also worried that some members of the team would not be open-minded to the idea.”

Rochard provided Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) with a list of criteria for the job. RWA is a national initiative designed to increase the labour force participation of people with intellectual disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

According to a report by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, preconceived concerns about hiring workers with intellectual disabilities averaged 42% higher than challenges actually experienced employing them. At RWA, the goal is to address those concerns by matching the right candidate to the job and help employers tap into a growing pool of highly capable and reliable resources.

Rochard’s criteria for the position at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex included the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, to safely handle sharp utensils and cutlery and be comfortable dealing with the public. In response, RWA connected her with Brian, a man with an intellectual disability.

At three months, Brian passed his probationary period with flying colours and is now one of Rochard’s star employees. As a kitchen steward, he collects, sorts and delivers event materials to various areas within the facility, handles the garbage and recycling and washes and puts away dishes.

“I am beyond impressed,” says Rochard, “This work can be monotonous and repetitive but Brian brings an energy level that is through the roof.”

Ingrid Rochard, Stewardship Manager, Daniel Ponte, Executive Chef and Brian Newton, Kitchen Steward

Ingrid Rochard, Stewardship Manager, Daniel Ponte, Executive Chef and Brian Newton, Kitchen Steward

Nearly three-quarters of 240 respondents to the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Employment Survey in 2013, said that employing individuals with intellectual disabilities has been a positive experience or even one that exceeded their expectations. According to Rochard, Brian is more productive than many of her other employees and has instilled a more collaborative approach to the team.

“He gets along with everyone, never complains and is one of the easiest people to work with,” says Rochard, “He’s forced a different level of behaviour and teamwork among our staff that has been just great.”

Funded by the Government of Canada and active in 20 communities across the country, RWA is a national partnership of Inclusion Canada, the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorders Alliance (CASDA) and their member organizations.