Meet Ben Goldberg, A KenCrest Job Coach
With over 40 years in the restaurant industry, KenCrest Job Coach Ben Goldberg helps people with disabilities find meaningful careers.
By Sydney Kerelo
The kitchen at Normandy Farms Estates is a hive of activity as chefs, kitchen aids, and servers move around the room, preparing lunch for the residents in the retirement home.
One kitchen aid wipes down the counter with a clean dish rag, sanitizing it for the chefs to prepare food. But he misses a section, leaving half the table covered in crumbs. As he turns to go, the tall man standing against the wall steps forward. With a brilliant smile, Ben Goldberg approaches, gently reminding him about the missed section while cracking a witty joke, making the kitchen aid beam with laughter.
Ben Goldberg is a Job Coach at KenCrest, working in the Employment program, helping those with an intellectual or developmental disability find careers they enjoy. Since 1984, KenCrest’s Employment program has matched individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities with meaningful jobs that interest them while supporting their success. Goldberg is just one of many Job Coaches KenCrest employees.
For the past two years, Goldberg has supported several individuals in finding permanent positions in restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores, and more.
“I tend to want to get people out of crappy jobs and into better ones,” says Goldberg. “One consumer was working one day a week in the basement of a Michael’s crushing boxes. He was in that basement for 18 years before I started working with him, and I got him a job at Normandy Farms Estates where he can be a waiter and make five times the money he was before.”
As a Job Coach, it is Goldberg’s responsibility to prepare those with intellectual or developmental disabilities for employment. Every day, he meets one of his clients at their place of employment and evaluates their work, helps train them, and talks with them about their duties. One of his main training tactics is to use humor to help them perform better.
“It’s a management tool that I’ve developed to help the people I support get through their tough task,” he says. “When things are really tough if you can smile and make people happy, it makes it easier to do the work and do it right.”
His humor is one thing that makes Goldberg stand out as a Job Coach, but another is his years of experience working in kitchens. For more than 40 years, he worked in various kitchens as a professional chef, but he didn’t take a direct route to his career.
At first, when he graduated high school, he went to school for commercial art at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. But after graduating, he struggled to find a job. So, he started cooking.
At first, just like with any new skill, he had to learn proper cooking methods and recipes. So, he enrolled at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College to become a trained chef and worked in several kitchens after graduating.
But after many years working on his feet in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, he searched for a new career path. One that would allow him the freedom to take days off and spend afternoons with his family, and he found KenCrest’s Job Coach position. It was the perfect fit.
“40 years is a long time to be working in the kitchen, and I like helping people; I’m a scout leader. I’ve been doing that for at least 15 years because I like to work with younger people and help them succeed,” Goldberg says. “I have autism myself, and my children have autism, so I understand it, and I like working with people who also have a disability because it’s important to help them live a normal life. To help them leave the house, make something of themselves, and do a job they enjoy.”
Whether it’s working in a restaurant kitchen like Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, where one person he supports works, or stocking shelves at the local Giant Grocery Store, Goldberg is determined to match each person he supports with a job they enjoy. And that’s what is most important to him.
KenCrest’s Employment program even offers supported and customized employment that encompasses traditional job support, self-employment support, and school-to-career support for youth looking for work right out of high school.
“As someone with autism myself, I know what’s going on with the people we support, I can relate,” says Goldberg. “And being in the kitchen especially allows me to help them more because I’ve been there; I understand it and can help them become successful in their own right.”
Are you interested in learning more about KenCrest’s Employment Program? Click the link below to learn more!