“I always wanted to be a chef and now I cook chicken for customers”. The words of 3rd year Real Life Training student Samuel whose employment dream has been made possible by his employer Nandos on St. Andrew’s Street, D1.
To the budding business or the faltering firm a lot could be learned from experiencing and observing the staff in Nandos who deliver customer care with bells on. For Nandos, positivity and pulling together is in the DNA and just as much energy and thought is applied to creating a positive experience for their staff the ‘Nandocas’ as they do for their customers. Staff are happy, they feel invested and a significant number of the management and supervisory team have worked their way up from entry positions.
WALK are proud to be partnered with Nandos who employ Samuel as a Kitchen Assistant for 4 hours a week and in April he will be marking the anniversary of one very happy year at work. “I cook whole chickens, chicken burgers and wings and also I wash the dishes like a dishwasher” Samuel says. “I push trays of cooked food into the serving lift and it goes upstairs to the hungry customers. I bake the Portuguese rolls and cook sweet potato wedges too.”
Samuel who is now HACCP trained and very conscious of safety at work says “I have to wear plastic gloves and a plastic apron because I need to protect the food flavour and contamination. I turn on the ovens which are much hotter anyway and the food cooks quickly. When I open the oven doors I stand back to let the steam go away so I don’t get burnt. It’s my safety.” For Samuel the very real sense of inclusion and being part of a work family has not passed him by where he recognizes that “Nandos do cool events for staffs and I always go to them. There is the ‘Griller of The Year’ competition to see who is the fastest best cook in the world and team nights out. The staff are really alright. I work alot with the staffs called Enrinque, Expedito, Joe, Rex and Orana and they help me with cleaning stuff and the hot dishes. All the staffs are good to me.”
As a direct result of the success of Samuel’s employment in the St. Andrew’s Street branch others in WALK are benefitting where Nandos Tallaght have subsequently joined the Business Support Network of the WALKWAYS Tallaght Hospital Project and in the next few weeks Nandos Mary Street will commence the employment of 1st year Real Life Training student Fiadhnait. As Samuel says “I give Nandos 10 out of 10. I feel delighted for that.”
Nandos Manager Edina Baranyi who was instrumental in opening the door to partnership with WALK speaks very positively about her organisation’s experience of employing Samuel and where she has presented back at regional and national levels has become an advocate for and a positive influencer in employing people with disabilities.
Edina says “throughout my career as a Manager, truly the most profound moment I have experienced was the moment Samuel joined our team here in Nando’s St. Andrew Street. Beyond emotional and empathetic factors, what this experience has shown me, and what I am whole heartedly convinced of is that should a company choose to develop an autism-friendly work environment with the correct systems and protocols the supported individual can create as much value as anybody else in their respective position.”
“Some find it hard to imagine that people with autism are able to value work, be productive, commit to a task or that the company can benefit from their employment in any regard. This is simply a matter of applying the information available to us and committing to growing people. To do this we have to work differently but the rewards are massive as it is a matter of changing lives.” “Nandos were not alone in this process as WALK was beside us every step of the way. In setting up this relationship there was no stone left unturned and no taboo questions that we could not ask. It was a very transparent process from the beginning which was really important to us.”
“After an intial agreed 10 week period of employment was over we decided to offer a permanent contract for Samuel. WALK helped us to build the best possible work schedule for him and also to connect us with his family, which was very important to us as a team and company. This connection created a more personal link in developing Samuel and specifically helped us with any sensitive matters that came up. It also helped with company celebrations such as Griller of the Year or the Christmas Party where Samuel was able to bring along family.” “In order to accommodate Samuel best we made sure to provide him a calm, predictable work environment where there is very little distraction or overexcitement. In working with WALK in this regard we were able to provide him with a clear structure and set specific tasks to accomplish.”
“This April will mark one year since Samuel joined our family, and I still find great inspiration and pride in seeing him arrive on shift. I love that he still comes in with the same passion in his eyes just like on his very first day, full of prospect and with a great sense of curiosity.” “Nandos will continue to help Samuel to carve a career path for himself in which he can develop not only as a Nandoca but as a person. We will enjoy supporting Samuel to grow in confidence and in his abilities which we know he can apply to other areas of life using his experience with us as a bench mark and a solid foundation for things to come.”
“Beyond this and our experience with Samuel, I hope we can create a system through which other highly capable people with disabilities can find a clear path in employment gaining strength, confidence and accomplishment. I hope that we can create a better understanding of what people with disabilities can offer us, and in turn offer them a more fruitful place in society and in our hearts.”
Thank you Nandos and congratulations Samuel!