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Denis Lee Lai, Deaf Malaysian who love baking

When bakery franchisee Gary Iverson interviewed Denis Lee Lai for a Bakers Delight apprenticeship, he soon discovered the 38-year-old Malaysian had the necessary skills and determination he was looking for.
 The fact Lai is deaf was never a barrier.

One of the amazing things I learnt about Denis was that he was a cook in Malaysia and when the restaurant he worked in shut, it became a disco and he became the DJ, which is pretty impressive for a deaf person," Iverson says. "Denis communicates with most people very well. The challenge for us at the start was to make sure the rest of the staff were prepared to slow down the way they communicated with him, which they did.

Lai, who has now completed 18 months of his three-year apprenticeship, says he loves baking, despite the 3am starts. "The first few months were hard," he says. Now it's OK and working early means I can go home early and get to spend more time at home." Lai says he has acquired new skills including dough making, baking, stocktaking, stock control and ordering.

Jason Locke, a baker with 13 years experience, who works with Lai in Melbourne, says only a few changes had to be made. "Our ovens are run on (audible) timers so we've installed lights so he can see when the bread needs to come out. We also use a white board to document procedures and schedules.- Locke says. Sarina Russo Apprenticeship Services helped organise the apprenticeship, including setting up the training contract and accessing Disabled Australian Apprentice Wage Support. Sarina Russo Apprenticeship Services spokesman Robert Thompson says the government allowance is tied to the employee to offset expenses incurred by the employer.

The group continues to monitor Lai's progress, making follow-up visits and calls. Locke says Lee has thrived in the new job. "Denis can lip read so as long as I look at him, its just like communicating with anyone else," he says. Lai says a career as a baker will suit those who like working with food, have good attention to detail, and are willing to learn on the job.

He still in the training under The Bakers Delight at http://www.bakersdelight.com.au/

Source: 'How to get that job' website

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