Podcast Episode 46. What happens to young people with additional needs when they finish full-time education? How will they find employment? How will they cope on their own throughout adulthood? One organization helping to provide some of the answers to these questions is Invictus Enterprises based in New York. In this week’s podcast, we hear from Alison Berkely co-founder of Invictus Enterprises about how they are helping young people with autism acquire the work skills they need to get into paid sustainable employment.

Alison talks about the challenges of getting the training program started and explains the benefits of basing the training program in the culinary industry. The first product launched was No Bones About It dog biscuits which have proved to be a commercial success with the profits being used to fund the training of even more people.

Alison talked about the need to teach both hard and soft skills. Invictus Enterprises have a support team with a variety of professional backgrounds and they help support the individuals physical and sensory needs in a way that enables them to learn effectively. When it comes to making the dog biscuits, for example, participants are shown how to follow a recipe, use the cooking equipment and develop the stamina required to be on their feet for a large part of the day. They also focus on developing their skills around teamwork and social communication skills.

Alison also explains the importance of technology and she describes it as the real “game changer” for the organization because it opens up the world of work for many young people who otherwise would not have an opportunity because they are not able to communicate verbally. Alison has even created a digital cookbook curriculum that takes students through the entire baking process using touchscreen technology.

As Alison says we all worry about what the future holds for our children. But there’s no doubt this worry is amplified when the child has additional needs. What Invictus Enterprises is doing serves as a reminder of the importance in aspiring to the future and finding new and innovative ways to help our young people find and keep paid employment. This will make the question how will they cope on their own a lot easier to answer.