When the Industry Readiness Training (IRT) program was in its pilot phase, Perkins restaurant in Viera was asked to be a “work pod,” or job skills training center. While managers had hired individuals with disabilities in the past, they admitted they were a little nervous about trying to train several at a time. But, that all changed.
Today, not only do managers like Sharon Matters and lead dishwasher Mr. King enthusiastically train IRT program participants, they treat them like family. Perkins-Viera owner, Shahrooz Bananpoor, has even gotten involved.
“Shahrooz has completely embraced our program,” said D’Entremont. “He recently sat down with both the morning and afternoon shifts to discuss tasks like proper hand washing to avoid cross contamination and what a temperature zone is and how to avoid it. My counterpart and I were even taking notes!”
Bananpoor even agreed to help IRT program participant, Hawk N. renew his Food Handler Certificate that had lapsed since high school.
D’Entremont said that once Hawk renews his certificate, the goal is to get his two teammates certified as well.
Like Perkins-Viera, the Swiss Inn-Rockledge is another IRT program work pod, and like Bananpoor, Swiss Inn Operating Manager, Pegi Marsh, also has connected with the program.
“Pegi is a stickler for details when it comes to training any employee,” said IRT Program Manager, Mike Murphy. “She regularly works one-on-one with our participants just to ensure they are trained well.”
Prior to participating in a work pod environment, IRT program participants are assessed at the Central Brevard Sharing Center as they perform job duties like organizing thrift store donations, color coordinating clothes and putting them on hangers for the thrift store, as well as serving food to the homeless. Once evaluated, D’Entremont and her peer, Jeanette Johnson, decide whether participants are ready to transition to a work pod or undergo further training at the Sharing Center.