Culinary pilot program at SAIT helps students with autism achieve their dreams

SAIT Polytechnic Instructor Chef Andreas Pabst (centre) from the Hospitality and Tourism school talks with students on Wednesday August 13, 2014. SAIT Polytechnic and The Ability Hub — supported by the Sinneave Family Foundation — have teamed up for a pilot project to train four students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to be prep cooks. When their training is complete, the students will work for Chartwells or Montana’s for an eight-week job placement. Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

Photo credit,  Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/QMI Agency

Calgary , SAIT Polytechnic – has launched a culinary pilot program geared towards preparing individuals with ASD to successfully enter the workforce.

With 70% of young adults with ASD being classified as high functioning, organizers believe that many should be provided with the opportunity to obtain the skills and training needed to secure a job.  As a result, the project’s enrollees will be taught preparatory cooking skills through the school’s Hospitality and Tourism program.  The four students registered will learn the basics such as  food safety and knife skills in a supportive work environment.

Those with ASD often have higher than average non-verbal reasoning abilities and a propensity to thrive when engaged in activities and tasks that are repetitive. Thus the consensus amongst organizers of the program was that the nuances of food preparation would be a “good match” for those with ASD who wish to enter the culinary field. They also cite a shortage of prep cooks in the industry as another reason for their decision to launch the initiative.

So far it has proven to be a success. Two major restaurant chains have already agreed to hire all four of the students for an  eight week placement starting in September and organizers are in talks to repeat the program next summer.

The original article by Bill Kaufmann in The Calgary Sun can be found here