Supporting People with Disabilities to be AtWork!

How did you find your first job? Did you apply somewhere your friend worked or did a family friend hire you in their business? One way or another, most of us use our personal networks to find new jobs. Sometimes this might be difficult to do, maybe you are in a new city or you do not know anyone in the right industry. Also, particularly when we are looking for our first job, we wish we had someone to help us navigate the complex system of applications, interviews, and even how to get started on that first day on the job.

That’s what my organization, AtWork!, provides for job hunters with developmental disabilities. We work with a wide range of individuals all across King and Snohomish Counties with different skills sets and interests. These individuals have historically been excluded from the work place and often do not have the network and information you or I would use to get that first job and to advance in our careers. AtWork! wants to close that gap.

That’s what we did for Josh. When Josh first got started in his job search, he didn’t know what he wanted to do because he had not worked before. It is hard to say “I want this” when you have not seen your options. Josh doesn’t communicate with words so we had to be creative to figure out what he likes and is good at. AtWork! supported Josh to try out several different types of work. Josh is limited in his movements, so we concentrated on what he could do with one hand. Eventually, Josh started volunteering at a food bank. He scooped and portioned various foods into bags for customers. He showed us through his smile and his eagerness to come that this was the type of job he wanted.

His Employment Consultant then started thinking about how we could take this skill and make it marketable to a business. What businesses need someone to put items in bags? His Employment Consultant thought of businesses that host children’s birthday parties and give out goodie bags to all the kids. With this idea in hand, AtWork! started approaching every business in Josh’s hometown that might have this need. Eventually, one said yes! Josh now works for Pump It Up of Kirkland filling kids’ birthday goodie bags. His Employment Consultant supported him with completing new hire paperwork, learning this new job, and communicating with his employer. These days, his Employment Consultant makes sure Josh continues to succeed in his job and looks for opportunities for him to work more hours, advance his skills, and grow in his career. Most importantly, Josh is making money doing something he likes doing, right alongside everyone else.

AtWork!’s mission is to empower people with disabilities be productive, integrated and contributing members of their communities. For Josh, this is happening more every day.

Want to join us on this mission? Check out our Employment Consultant position at www.atworkwa.org

 

By Nicole Geiger
Nicole Geiger Employment Services Manager