A nationwide pizza delivery company is changing perceptions about how valuable people with intellectual disabilities can be in the workplace.
Hell Pizza began with one store in Wellington in 1996 and has franchises nationwide, with 69 stores employing more than 1,100 people.
In 2013 the company formed a partnership with IDEA Services (a subsidiary of IHC) to set up a paid training and work experience programme for youth with an intellectual disability.
Hell Pizza General Manager Ben Cumming says the Active in Hell initiative was spawned after one of the stores delivered pizzas to Active, a local Wellington organisation for youth with intellectual disabilities, and asked how the company could support them.
Ben says that because commercial kitchens are a fast-paced and, at times, dangerous working environment, there was a perception in the industry that they were not suitable places for people with disabilities.
But after speaking to the staff and youth at Active, Hell Pizza management realised that there were some very capable individuals there who could benefit from a fast-food training programme. It would help create opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to enter the workforce by dispelling myths and breaking down those initial barriers they face, and provide a rewarding experience for Hell Pizza store owners and staff.
Active is a six-week programme, comprising of two paid two-hour sessions in a Hell store each week. The training covers everything from health and safety education to preparing food for sale and making pizza dough and bases.
Since it started, 32 young people have completed the training course in stores from Auckland to Dunedin and Hell Pizza has now committed to putting 64 trainees through the programme each year.
To set up the project, Hell Pizza’s head office approached all its franchise owners to explain the programme and canvas their support.
“We’ve always said that we don’t want to force our franchisees into the project. If they are not enthusiastic about the training programme, then the project will likely not succeed in their store,” Ben says.
Around two thirds of the stores signed up to take part, providing a range of locations for the trainees, who were found by Idea Services’ regional supported employment co-ordinators.