- Qualified people aren’t getting the support they need to achieve financial independence and stability. Approximately 59% of working age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.
- Krackers Katering is a social enterprise operated by Causeway Work Centre and supported by United Way East Ontario. Krackers breaks down barriers to employment by training and employing people with disabilities or mental health challenges and providing them with a supportive environment to learn transferable job skills.
- Through Causeway’s Solutions for Youth program, Jazz found work at Krackers Katering where he learned skills like managing the cash register, food preparation, and staying calm in stressful situations. While learning these skills, he found a community in the kitchen.
In preparation for the lunchtime rush, the Krackers Katering kitchen at Causeway Work Centre comes alive with chatter and clatter.
Newly-promoted prep cook Jazz emerges from the kitchen with an apron on his waist and a smile on his face, eager to share his story as his co-workers chop, stir, flip and prepare for the day’s menu.
Breaking barriers to employment
Jazz’s journey at Krackers started with a placement as a dishwasher through Causeway’s Solutions for Youth program—a 16-week program that allows youth ages 16-29 to explore their chosen career paths, whether it’s going back to school or gaining some work experience. Juliana, Causeway’s Director of Fund Development says, “Jazz really just wanted to be in the kitchen from the get-go, so it was a really natural fit.”
The impact of Solutions for Youth goes beyond employment; participants gain skills that help them in their everyday lives.
Jazz says the program leaders encourage participants to embrace self-confidence. Juliana explains, “The Solutions for Youth program is really important to our community because when you’re young, out of school, unemployed, or underemployed a lot of what is missing is maybe that sense of purpose and belonging.”
Approximately 59% of working age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities. That’s why programs like these—that focus on breaking down barriers to employment—are so important. People who are experiencing mental health challenges and those with disabilities have great strengths but sometimes need more accessible and supportive work environments.
Participants like Jazz leave the program with practical work experience and a newfound sense of purpose, direction, and confidence as they embark on their journey towards their careers and brighter futures. After completing the Solutions for Youth program, Jazz was hired to keep working at Krackers as a prep cook.
A recipe for success
Life hasn’t always been easy for Jazz, who has faced the daily struggle of living with brain damage. “I’m always fighting with my brain,” reflects Jazz.
However, despite the challenges he’s experienced, Jazz has always had a passion for helping others and a desire to work in the kitchen. Like many people with disabilities, Jazz didn’t know where to start looking for work, but he knew he was ready to try. “Don’t be afraid,” he says, when asked what message he would send to others in similar situations. Jazz feared he would face judgment for being different but quickly learned at Krackers that with a little confidence and support, anything is possible.
Krackers Katering is a social enterprise operated by Causeway and supported by United Way East Ontario. Krackers breaks down barriers to employment by training and employing people with disabilities or mental health challenges and providing them with a supportive environment to learn transferable job skills.
For Jazz, the people are a huge part of what makes Krackers such a special place to work.
Jazz’s journey in the Krackers kitchen has also been one of personal growth. He’s learned conflict resolution, how to set boundaries, not to panic in high-pressure situations and maintain his composure—valuable lessons that also help him in his personal life.
Since joining the team, Jazz has become a mentor to others, guiding new team members, showing them the ropes, and fostering an atmosphere of trust and friendship. When asked about his favorite part of working at Krackers, Jazz doesn’t hesitate to answer. “The customers, each and every one of them,” he says. Jazz just wants to make someone’s day a little brighter.
Bridging the gap together
United Way East Ontario is a long-time supporter of Krackers Katering through Causeway, working towards a shared goal of building better communities for all.
United Way works in communities Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark County, and Renfrew County to make it easier for people to get a job, thrive in their workplace, and become financially independent. We invest in employment programs and supports that help youth, newcomers, and people with disabilities strengthen their skills and land the job they want.
We also lead community-wide initiatives and bring together experts to tackle employment barriers, such as the Employment Accessibility Resource Network, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, and the Indigenous Employment Leadership Advisory Table.