In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we will be sharing stories about Steamers’ employees through the month of October.

Preparation for employment begins long before filling out an application and interviewing for a job. For people of all abilities, skill building starts in the classroom. Special Education programs are emphasizing the importance of preparing for employment more and more by using classroom time to teach transferable skills, from how to effectively communicate with others to what information will be needed on job applications. Transition programs for people with disabilities are also helpful in identifying options for students after high school.

Each year, students with disabilities from local high schools complete internships at Steamers. They come to us for the year and learn valuable job skills that will help them transition out of high school and into competitive employment. Throughout their time at Steamers, these students learn knife and kitchen safety skills, the importance of keeping a clean working space, and how to portion meat and roll sliders. They help make jam and prepare guacamole and salsa. We also teach soft skills, which are the most necessary for employment and transferable across settings. Students work on effective communication: how to notify a supervisor they will be absent, how to communicate with peers, and work on a team. We teach ways to ask for help, if assigned an unfamiliar work task and tools for managing frustrations. Most importantly, we celebrate successes big and small along the way.

This year, one of Steamers’ high school interns, Ethan, is the brother of another familiar face around the restaurant, Josh. Josh has been a line cook at Steamers since March 2015. Ethan had been to Steamers and Jack’s before, but only as a customer or to visit his brother. When asked why he wanted to do an internship at Steamers and Jack’s, Ethan said “to see what new things I can do, while I’m still in school.” He continued to say that he hoped his time working in the Prep Kitchen would help him get his dream job in the future: racing cars. Josh echoed Ethan, saying that he hoped his brother will “learn some new life skills and work hard, like our dad did.” The two brothers went back and forth about what they like to cook together (pasta, pizza, and steaks) to how they like to have fun, when they are not working hard. Video games are their preferred way to unwind.

Between laughing and sharing stories, Josh admitted that he was a little worried about how things would go for Ethan at his internship. “It’s a new job and I wanted to watch over him and make sure he’s doing well. After his first day, all that went away. He came home saying how much fun he had.” Ethan was a little nervous about his first day, but you would never have known. He said he walked in and thought “well, this is what a kitchen is… I guess I will just jump right in.” And he did.

Ethan picks up on tasks quickly. He is eager to learn and follows directions. Ethan pays attention to his surroundings and after being taught to set up a work station on his first day, he has completed that task independently during each of his shifts. Ethan’s successes with his internship at Steamers are a clear reflection of the hard work he (and his teachers) put in, while in school. Having an older brother to learn from probably helped a lot, too. Still, there is a lot left for Ethan to learn and he has already developed a list of skills he wants to gain. Top of that list? Different cuts of vegetables. With his positivity and work ethic, there is no doubt that Ethan will learn those skills and more.

Ethan is a great example to all of us for how to be a good employee: ask questions, pay attention, try new things, and of course, work hard.