Individuals with intellectual disabilities often struggle to obtain and secure employment, and Daymara Baker is on a mission to change that.
During her time in a senior position at a multinational corporation, Daymara loved mentoring others and helping them advance in their careers. This passion led her to help train former female inmates to re-enter the workforce.
She saw firsthand how getting a job drastically improved the lives of these women and their families. But, her focus changed when a mother of a child with autism came to her for help.
“She asked me if I would consider having her daughter train with me,” Daymara said. And, although she had little experience working with those with intellectual disabilities, she responded, “Why not? We will just use common sense and learn as we go.”
From there, she did extensive research and began to work with her newest trainee.
“She had a lot of challenges being a team member, but now she is at the point that she manages my register and communicates effectively with teammates.”
Through this work, Daymara discovered a desperate need in the community for training people with intellectual disabilities for the workforce. That is why she started using her non-profit business Rockin’ Baker Academy to make a difference.
Rockin’ Baker owner, Daymara Baker
“I am happy to say that here in my bakery, more than half of my workforce are individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Daymara said.
Hiring people with intellectual disabilities has proven beneficial to her business.
“Since I started training individuals with disabilities, I have learned that they are very determined and focused. They are very talented and smart, they just have a different way of showing it,” said Daymara.
Many employers often don’t give them a chance — they are loyal and hardworking when they are given an opportunity, she added.
The skills people gain at the bakery go far beyond just making delicious baked goods. Employees and volunteers at the bakery learn how to work in teams, support one another, be on time and develop other social skills necessary for finding and maintaining a job.
In less than three years, Rockin’ Baker Academy has trained more than 28 people for the workforce. The valuable training positively affected the individuals, their families and the community. Now, Daymara is trying to bring awareness to other companies about hiring those with intellectual disabilities.
“I encourage hiring managers to change their mindset so that they begin to think beyond the traits you expect of neuro-typical people to see the talents of individuals with disabilities,” she said. Daymara educates managers on behaviors that are typically expected in interviews that people with disabilities may have difficulty doing, such as maintaining eye-contact.
She also emphasized that hiring is only the first step in creating an inclusive workplace.
“There also has to be some training within the organizations so team members know how to work with individuals with disabilities. Without the proper training within an organization, there is not an inclusive environment.”
Some companies acknowledged last month as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, but that is not enough, according to Daymara.
“This should not be limited to 31 days. Inclusion should be the mindset for every corporation 365 days a year,” she said.
Daymara says the biggest challenge of running her organization is funding it.
“We face the challenge of being a nonprofit. The costs for providing this training is larger than the revenue we generate from our sales,” she said.
The community can support Rockin’ Baker by donating, buying their baked goods or eating at restaurants that carry their products.
Visit Rockin’ Baker Academy’s website at www.rockinbakeracademy.org to learn more.