During the first quarter of 2020, several of our kitchens played host to interns from the special needs education sector.

This is in line with our policy of providing equal opportunities for all and supporting diversity within our company.

Meet our special needs trainees

The special needs trainees we have welcomed in our kitchens all have a neuro-atypic profile, i.e. they sometimes have behavioural or attention disorders but also learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysphasia...). This means that we must be a bit more patient and redouble our efforts to guide them and integrate them properly into our kitchen. Céline is a trainee at the educational restaurant "Les Parfums du monde" (Tubize), who worked at the European Council. From the Charles Gheude Institute (Brussels), we welcomed Mouhamadou and Atal at the European Council, Immer at Belfius and Timucin at ING.

First-day challenges

Our new colleagues needed some time to adjust and discover the challenges that trainees face. After all, a massive institution such as the European Council is in itself quite impressive at first encounter. Our trainees had to deal with a lot of new information: finding their way around the location, safety rules, hygiene instructions and our kitchen planning. Equipped with the right badges and their new uniforms, they set to their tasks and quickly - in a matter of a few days - found their bearings.

Samuel, ING's managing chef explains: "When Timucin arrived, we went on a tour of the kitchens and restaurants together. I introduced him to his buddy who would be following him up during his internship. He is supervised at all times and we make sure he doesn't feel too much stress or pressure.

Progress in a few weeks

With trainees with special needs, the important thing is to give them repetitive tasks. Their colleagues showed them how to dice vegetables or prepare soup. Throughout the day, every trainee is closely monitored to make sure everything goes smoothly for everyone.

As Vincent, our Unit Manager at the European Council says: "The trainees are really motivated. Simply serving a dish can be quite complex, so our chef takes care to explain everything step by step. I really think the trainees are very content with their achievements. Communicating with customers requires some extra effort, however. At the European Council we serve an impressive number of clients every day. This creates a noticeable stress for everyone, and there are always lines queueing to be served. But with a little help from the team, the trainees manage to overcome the stress and serve orders to our guests. We've had no remarks from customers about our approach and they are very understanding about the trainees and what we try to achieve with them."

Mouhamadou, special needs trainee at the Charles Gheude Institute, says: "I was well received here. Everyone was so nice and they took the time and trouble to explain all the tasks to me. And the ambiance is very good, so I quickly felt at ease. I learned how to dice vegetables and prepare sandwiches for the cafeteria."

An rewarding experience for everyone

It was great to see how rewarding the experience was for our colleagues and the trainees themselves.

Vincent continues: "We all learned a lot. The trainees are engaging and always polite, but they all have their own character. For example, Mouhamadou is very enthusiastic, sometimes a bit too much even. But he was able to control his behaviour and managed to keep calm when necessary. He welcomes customers with a big smile. As for Atal, he is very shy and didn't dare speak with colleagues at first. But we explained that communication is essential in a well-run kitchen and that he had nothing to be afraid of. So, little by little, he plucked up his courage and started asking questions. He has really made a lot of progress, and he has noticed the change in himself. That is a great outcome."

All the special needs trainees we met were unanimous: they would have loved to stay longer and they wouldn't hesitate to come back in the future to work at Compass.

For our part, we wish them every success in their further education and we hope to see them again soon!