A nationwide initiative encouraging employment for young people with intellectual disability has seen its first employees in Tauranga.
New Tauranga Hell Pizza employee Shanaya Schuster, 18, was one of two people offered a job at the store after she completed a six-week paid course at Hell Pizza at the end of 2016 through the Active in Hell programme, an initiative created with IDEA Services.
The ex-Otumoetai College pupil and Whakamarama local has dyspraxia, a neurologically based disorder which can affect messages from the brain to the body, like motor planning and execution of planned movements.
Hell Tauranga and Papamoa franchisee Sangeeta Dhot said the programme had been going for about four years.
"I think it is a very good opportunity for us as well, as business owners, to work with people with intellectual challenges, to get to know them more."
She said Ms Schuster had fitted well with the team, and was a capable worker.
"It's given her that hands-on experience in a commercial kitchen. I would definitely recommend it. I think it is a small way of doing something for the community."
Ms Schuster said she was "pretty nervous" on her first day of training, but the people were "nice and friendly" and made her feel welcome.
"I think the job is pretty awesome."
She encouraged others to give the programme a go because it was a good stepping stone into the work force.
IDEA Services Supported Employment co-ordinator Mark Stone said he was wanting to see other large franchises take on the training model.
"There is so much the people have to give, and I think the employers too, they've also gained a lot from having to work with people with intellectual disabilities.
"It's given them a whole fresh new insight and how important it is for these guys to be given opportunities, it's been a real win-win situation."
Tauranga Inclusive Employment task force chair Paul Curry said the Bay was still "lagging behind" in terms of offering people with disabilities employment.
"People with disabilities are still finding it quite difficult to get jobs, and that is one of the major activities of the task force - to try and improve how we can support employers.
"The Hell Pizza initiative is fantastic, they've taken the bull by the horns and gone out of their way to try to break down the barriers. The more people do that, and more people with disabilities can be seen in employment, the easier it becomes."
The Warehouse Group spokeswoman Sarah Leaning said while the group did not have a specific scheme in place, it employed, "people with disabilities across our business as a matter of course, including our stores in Tauranga".
"We also look to ensure there is a fair representation of all New Zealanders across our business. For example, we have included people with disabilities in our mailers."
Mike Bryant, Bay of Plenty Regional Commissioner for Social Development, said EmployAbility, which was launched in the Bay in December, was a collective approach to assist disabled clients and clients with health conditions gain or move towards sustainable employment.
"We know there are benefits from a diverse workforce, for the individual, for the employer and for the community."