When we empower people with disabilities and remove the barriers that keep them from the workforce, everybody wins.
For the person with disabilities, it’s a chance to be gainfully employed and therefore more independent. For communities, it means more people contributing their work and taxes to society.
But the biggest winners might be the companies hiring these workers. A 2018 study by the business services company Accenture reported that companies that actively seek to employ people with disabilities outperform those that do not with higher revenues and net profits. Other studies indicate that individuals with disabilities stay in their jobs longer and have lower absenteeism than other employees.
Which is why workforce training and placement for those with disabilities is at the heart of what we do at Quality Connections. Under the leadership of Employment Services Director Kelly Arnold, we assist more than 200 people each year as they go through the journey of preparing for, finding and maintaining employment.
This is no cookie-cutter approach. Our services are highly individualized, as we are helping people with a wide range of abilities and life experiences. An individual might have a physical disability, a cognitive or developmental delay, a visual impairment or suffer from anxiety. Essentially, anyone with a condition that creates a barrier to finding employment and a referral from a state agency, like the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration, can access our programs for free.
“We’ve had people come through with masters degrees and because of severe anxiety can’t write a resume or go through an interview,” said Arnold.
Our first step is assessment. What skills does the person have, what work are they interested in and what barriers are keeping them from employment in that field? Do they need work adjustment training? (This is essentially those soft skills that every employer looks for, such as reliability, teamwork and problem-solving skills.) Do they need additional outside training or a certificate to qualify for a particular line of work? How will they get to the workplace?
Often, it’s about finding work that’s related to what they did before they became disabled. For example, a construction worker has an accident that results in a broken neck. He can no longer work on sites the way he used to, but there are other careers open to him that use his expertise, such as a government job with OSHA or as a sales rep for a company that produces construction materials.
Sometimes, our work involves helping clients get over the fears they might have about being in the workplace, such as concerns about being mocked or made to feel uncomfortable about their disability. We dive into why they are worried and how they can deal with that fear or what to do if situations like that arise.
We also help with the nuts and bolts typically associated with finding employment: online job searches, how to write a resume and cover letter, what to say in an interview. We hold mock interviews before the real interview and we’ll even accompany them as long as the employer allows us to be there (which they will about 99% of the time).
Once an individual is successfully placed in a job, we follow up every week to check in with that individual and his or her employer to make sure this new relationship is working out.
“We have worked with Kelly and Quality Connections and the process is very organized and easy for us,” said Misti Warner-Andersen of Warner’s Nursery. “They did a great job of finding folks that want to work in our environment, they then follow through with assistance in training and continued support if needed. It’s a great opportunity for any business to expand their workforce.”
Some of the people we work with and train may ultimately come to work for Quality Connections. You might have talked to them when you call our QC Office call center or perhaps you see them when they come to deliver your office supplies.
Ultimately, however, we want to ensure that when a client finishes with our services, they can enter the workforce successfully, regardless of the barriers they initially faced. We want them to have the success we all feel when we find meaningful employment. And we want them to be confident that they can do it on their own, from the application process to interviewing to landing and keeping that position.
For a service that is all about helping others try to find employment, our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. FBN
By Armando Bernasconi