Podcast Episode 46. What happens to young people with additional needs when they finish full-time education? How will they find employment? How will they cope on their own throughout adulthood? One organization helping to provide some of the answers to these questions is Invictus Enterprises based in New York. In this week’s podcast, we hear from Alison Berkely co-founder of Invictus Enterprises about how they are helping young people with autism acquire the work skills they need to get into paid sustainable employment.
We have a new, improved set up for the Summer Cycle in our Invictus Kitchen. Here’s some of the main elevations you’ll be seeing in the coming 8 weeks:
- Both sessions have been combined to create one, larger team of approximately 10 bakers on any given Saturday;
- New teams will consistently pair instructors and bakers from week-to-week – these pairings are to propel skill development, but also facilitate social interaction and the all-important teamwork that is imperative in our kitchen;
- New, improved and synthesized data metrics will continue to systematically track skill acquisition, yet elevate the breadth and deepen the detail of the data where we need it most; and
- New layout of our physical workstations and use of the full Invictus Kitchen to maximize team efficiency and efficacy.
These improvements will elevate the kitchen to a whole other level! We have been thoroughly impressed with how well our bakers are doing and how quickly they are learning. It is an exciting prospect to think of how the new elements will propel things even further. As always, we welcome all of our Invictus Family (aka. You, the parents) into the kitchen to check out the new set-up and give us any thoughts, tips or feedback you might have.
I thought a quick snapshot of what we’ve doing behind the scenes and how we have developed new specific goals for "Student X" would be helpful as we move forward into the new cycle. In true Invictus spirit we are ever-increasing the challenges on our bakers and building their skills towards real-world jobs. Over the past months we have been impressed with their progress in the kitchen thus far and working hard on answering the all-important question:
To hone in on the answer, our instructors pow-wowed and brainstormed. We did a ton of research, and picked the brains of savvy and successful culinary professionals. We asked them a myriad of questions to illuminate what they look for and expect to see in their best team members and employees. From this wealth of knowledge from the mouths of industry experts, we built a profile of the ideal baker/culinary employee and here’s what is exceedingly important:
- Teamwork – Functioning positively, effectively and efficiently in a team is paramount;
- Multi-Tasking – working on multiple objectives in the kitchen at any one time is key to being able to accomplish everything needing to be done on any given day;
- Accuracy – the quality of the work (and the work-product) is one of the most important indicators for success;
- Reliability and Dependability – unlike in the office-based workplace, in the culinary world there is no “we’ll get it done tomorrow”, there is only TODAY. Whatever orders are placed need to be filled quickly no matter what, so if one baker does not show up for their shift, the whole team pays the price;
- Problem-Solving & Good Judgement - Being able to recognize if and when a problem arises, and the ability to think through how to solve it is key. A good baker should fundamentally know the purpose behind the methods and how to adapt those methods when changes need to be made;
- Communication – Verbal communication is not a necessity. There are many ways to communicate so that a baker can advocate for help when needed (i.e. physical communication or use of technology); and
- Respect of the work environment – Cleanliness and organization are vital: clean up after each task and replace all equipment in its designated spot.
As you read those important profile components, it is reassuring to know we’ve been working diligently towards all of them. For the coming Cycle, I want to outline 3 main goals for Student X that will enable success in the culinary world:
Student X's Goals:
- Accuracy in measuring – introduction and mastery of using a digital weight scale;
- Working effectively and positively with teammate(s) and main instructor towards a common goal – Student X has been working incredibly well in his solo workflow, now we will fold in more team components throughout the process to build on his team skills; and
- Pacing and Consistency in work product – Student X is mastering the process nicely, but still requires instructor support to keep his pace and thus his product output consistent and improving over time. We will target his independence in navigating through each step in a more timely manner while enabling him to keep his high-quality work product.
Alison Berkley - Invictus Co-Founder
During the 2017 Holiday Season, Microsoft's Wish Machine Contest was open to anyone with a "heart for others and a philanthropic spirit":
Microsoft used four criteria to judge each entry:
- Heartwarming — the wish much be inspiring, human and powerful because of the nature, intent and meaning behind the wish. (40 percent)
- Philanthropic — The wish is inherently generous and considers that the greater good of others over oneself. (20 percent)
- The wish aligns with Sponsor's mission to help people realize their full potential and achieve more. (20 percent)
- Sponsor can determine a prize that can be reasonably provided within 2-3 months of the Contest end that fulfills the wish submitted. (20 percent)
Invictus Enterprises was fortunate to win the following during the Wish Machine Contest:
- 4 Microsoft Surface Pros, Invoke Speaker, Type Covers, 2 Tumi Carry Cases, and a Stylus Pen.
Microsoft is also doing pioneering work with SAP, JP Morgan Chase, EY, Ford Motor Company, and DXC technologies in hiring Autistic adults into their business units. This group has launched the Autism Employer Roundtable, which is a coalition focused on helping other companies advance their hiring approach for people with Autism. These are all VERY powerful steps for our workforce at Invictus Enterprises !! Technology in the kitchen, and now the potential for technology hiring.
Microsoft wanted to come into the Invictus kitchen last weekend to see their technology in action in the Invictus kitchen, and we were very surprised when they:
- Brought in such a large film crew for a feature film they are shooting, and
- Microsoft donated 6 additional Surface Pros !!
Each Surface Pro “Kit” includes:
- One Surface Pro, Type Cover, Carry Case, Bluetooth Air Mouse, Stylus Pen, and charger - all contained within a snazzy tech-friendly backpack.
Thank you Microsoft, and now the tables turn back to Invictus Enterprises. How can Invictus empower our workforce inside and outside the kitchen?
As our new program in partnership with the New York City Department of Education kicks off this summer, Microsoft’s gift to us was sublimely timed. We will be providing in-depth training in our production, packaging and shipping, and sales processes to District 75 transitions classes for students aged 18-21 years. All too often, the students and populations who would benefit the most from technology and the adaptive tools employed within, lack access to it. Now, we are equipped with the latest and greatest technology to share with our friends and soon-to-be trainees at the DOE – opening access to an entirely new group of students ready to learn all the skills they need to go to work!
Technology is the bridge between our trainees and leading lives full of productivity by creating jobs for autistic adults. Artful adaptations are at the heart of Invictus – the use of specialized software and Microsoft Surface laptops emboldens our trainees and team members as they access, learn and master the production process. This generous gift of six Surface Pro kits (in addition to their original game-changing gift over the holidays) means that we can help more people to engage in work from which they would otherwise be cut off. It is the catalyst for opportunity - where capable young adults can show the world what they can do. With this gift we can continue to empower the greatest workforce in the world. The campaign name is not lost on us: The #EmpoweringPossibility campaign and Microsoft Team came to our Invictus Kitchen and did just that, Empowered Possibility. For this, we can not say thank you enough. Yet, we can and will continue on our mission to show the world what productive citizenry for all looks like.
Stay tuned to the Invictus BeU blog and our social media feeds for updates on how our partnership with Microsoft continues to improve lives and put talented people to WORK!