Active in Hell: Paid Training Experience for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

Long-term unemployment is a prevalent trend in today’s society and affects many marginalized populations. As youth with intellectual disabilities are particularly vulnerable, an innovative partnership developed in Wellington, New Zealand is striving to alleviate this disadvantage.

The Active in Hell Training programme is a collaboration between IDEA Services (IHC New Zealand) and Hell Pizza, a forward-thinking New Zealand pizza chain. Our six week paid training programme is designed to provide youth with intellectual disabilities opportunities to develop practical skills in commercial kitchens. 

A commonly cited barrier to employment is the “lack of experience” paradigm, in which individuals have insufficient experience to secure employment, but fail to gain experience due to their lack of opportunity to do so. The Active in Hell program is intended to circumvent this barrier by allowing trainees to gain paid relevant workplace experience, providing greater access to employment in the open labour market.

To date, 87 young people have completed the programme and Hell Pizza has committed to continue the programme nationally throughout the 2017 year. The number of stores participating in the project continues to increase as the success of the initiative spreads. It is our hope that projects such as this will contribute to the breakdown of stigmatization and stereotypes surrounding the employment of individuals with disabilities.

The Active in Hell programme is a mutually beneficial collaboration. In addition to strengthening the training skills of their employees, the project has increased Hell’s profile in the community and promoted the Hell Pizza brand. In 2016, Hell Pizza proudly won the National Diversability Award, which celebrates innovative responses to employment opportunities for differently abled people. The benefits for IDEA Services are evident and wide spread. Ten graduates have been offered employment within Hell Pizza, while others have gained employment in the hospitality industry. Furthermore all individuals developed interpersonal skills, confidence and self-esteem while learning appropriate workplace related behaviour.

The overall aim of the Active in Hell training programme is to reduce long-term unemployment while increasing employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. We are excited about the success of our programme and look forward to continuing the expansion of this project!

This article was kindly provided by Kristyn Gain, Active in Hell National Coordinator, IDEA Services Wellington