A growing number of individuals, organizations, and for-profit companies are recognizing the many benefits of a diverse workforce. Studies show that inclusion benefits the entire workplace with better morale, efficiency, and consumer reviews; and we know from over fifty years of first-hand experience that employing people with disabilities is good for business. The strategies outlined below are designed to enhance inclusion in the workplace for employees of all ages and all skill levels.
Charles has spent this year showing his team at Puget Sound Laundry Services he has what it takes to get the job done, and then some! A longtime Northwest Center Employment Services participant, Charles has previously worked in document shredding at American Data Guard, on a supported work team at the Bank of America Building, and in Northwest Center’s Assembly & Packaging division.
While to some, top performer may seem like a minor achievement, for many people with disabilities their whole lives have passed without ever being recognized for their contribution.
When a new shift begins, associates clock in and head to “Stand Up,” an area of the warehouse where managers go over daily announcements and celebrate top performers in front of their coworkers. For Mihret, who has worked for just over six months, Stand Up became a goal from day one.
Mihret, born in Ethiopia, is deaf yet does not know American or Universal Sign Language. English is her second language and this makes communication and connection difficult for her. Yet in June 2017, Mihret came into work and saw her name, written in big green letters. Mihret was awarded top performer. Two days later, Mihret achieved her goal yet again. In fact, that day, three out of the four top performer awards were given to associates placed by Northwest Center, all with diagnosed disabilities.
By Richard Solomon, Lead Employment Support Coordinator
Conlan holds up a finger and furrows his brow, focused on the screen in front of him. He’s working as a Problem Solver at Amazon’s Prime Now warehouse (UWA1) in Kirkland, a job he found through Northwest Center Employment Services. The warehouse is a hub for Pacific Northwest fulfillment, with a torrent of inventory that gives him plenty to do.
Our 2017 Golden Hearts Luncheon raised money for a more inclusive working world. Host Dennis Bounds, former King 5 news anchor, kept things lively as he shared success stories like that of Devin, who found his career through Northwest Center School-to-Work. Devin’s story was captured on video and shared at the event by featured speaker Chris Ulmer of Special Books by Special Kids, whose popular videos of conversations with children and adults with disabilities were an event highlight.
By Gene Boes, President & CEO, Northwest Center
Value Village & Northwest Center
Few regions have seen as much change in recent years as the Pacific Northwest. A technology-driven boom has propelled growth in the Puget Sound region, with Seattle earning the status of fastest-growing city and undisputed construction crane capital in the nation.
Stephan knows a thing or two about dancing in the rain. An avid hip-hop dancer, Stephan enjoys every day as a Donations Station Attendant for The Big Blue Truck™, no matter if there are sunny skies or some of our Pacific Northwest mist.
While Stephan is a happy, vital member of The Big Blue Truck™ team, it took some trial and error to find the job where he could excel. A member of the School-to-Work (S2W) program, Stephan was actively preparing himself for employment opportunities before he graduated from high school. It took some job coaching and training, but when Stephan saw the people in the Big Blue Truck™ he knew he wanted to join in.
Trevor Pacelli grew up in Sammamish, Washington and was diagnosed with a form of autism at age 5. As a child, he published drawings in two children’s magazines and illustrated a children's book at age 15, written by his sister Briana Pacelli, “The Kindergarten Adventures of Amazing Grace." an autism awareness book. At 19, he wrote a book in the "Six-Word Lessons" series to help people with autistic children in their families understand how an autistic person really thinks and feels. He is a graduate of Arizona State University in Film and Media Studies. Trevor recently joined the team at Northwest Center in July 2017.
Trevor shares his journey to gaining employment at NWC and his experience with workforce inclusion.
As an individual on the autism spectrum who has gone through several interviews over the years, I could tell you a lot about my long, endless job search. While confidence wavered on when or if I would find a job in key moments of my life, my jobs across the last five years served to teach me plenty of useful skills, as well as some important wisdom about workforce inclusion.
By: Tracee Christie
Writers: Jennifer Owen
Tracee, Senior Area Manager at Integrated Facility Services (IFS), has been with Northwest Center for 15 years and knows what it takes to succeed. From working long hours to personally inspecting with her teams the 1.6 million square feet of property she manages; Tracee knows that hard work and proper management leads to successful teams.
Written by: Wendy Heddrick & Jackie Fountain
Edited by: Jennifer Owen
Innovation blossoms in environments that embrace diversity. At Argus, the female-run janitorial service defies the traditional insular, male dominated profession with a workforce largely consisting of women, minorities, and people of all abilities. We sat down with General Manager Jackie and Senior Manager Wendy to learn about their model of inclusive employment and all the strides Argus is making in the Pacific Northwest.
We know that workplaces benefit the more diverse they become, but the number of unemployed people with disabilities highlights how much change is yet to come. If you or your organization are interested in hiring individuals with disabilities, consider the following advice and tips to find the right employee.
Seattle’s swaths of downtown real estate are looked after by Debbie, who manages the janitorial teams responsible for the upkeep of government institutions housed in historic office buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Northwest Center Partners with Tech Neighbor to Establish National Model of Inclusion
By Sarah Rothman
Director, Project Inclusion
Being located in one of the quickest-growing tech centers in the world, Northwest Center cherishes the opportunity to partner with our forward-thinking neighbors. Our employment team is proud to be working on a sustainable, long-term relationship with one of the largest tech companies in Seattle. Building off of a pilot program in 2015, the long-term objective of the partnership with Northwest Center is to attract and retain a part-time driven and diverse workforce. By developing an inclusive, broad staffing network, we are placing people with disabilities who are looking for part-time opportunities in independent, competitive employment.
Expanding Inclusive Work Environments Across County Lines
By Taryn Farley
Manager, Employment Services
2016 was a year of growth throughout all Northwest Center departments. Taryn Farley and Alex Diseth, the Community Employment Services Managers, assumed full leadership of the job development team in August with goals geared towards long-term growth. Both managers have worked at Northwest Center for nearly five years and have experience in the disability field beyond their tenure at Northwest Center. Taryn and Alex have their eyes set on staff retention through quality training aimed towards getting more people into jobs!
With new leadership and a growing team, we are poised to increase our existing services in King County and are now certified to expand our services statewide. Our first order of business is to begin expansion into the adjacent counties of Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap. Expansion efforts have already begun in Snohomish County, with relationships being built out of the Lynnwood Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Office.
Celebrating a Year of Inclusive Work
By Lindsay MacCary
Looking back on 2016, the School-to-Work team is proud to reflect upon a successful year! In 2016 our team of four employment consultants served 22 students from schools spanning King County, all the while diligently collaborating with students, teachers, families and other members of support networks on the journey to best understand students’ strengths, interests and support needs.
More than a century old, Starbucks Center (formerly the Sears, Roebuck & Co. building) is a buzzing hub of retail, office, warehousing, and manufacturing activities. Each day, thousands of Seattleites drive by the iconic building, now home to one of the world’s most iconic brands. And behind the scenes of this two million square-foot, 17-acre operation is Brandon, who prides himself on keeping the facility as beautiful as it has been for the past 100 years.
The employees at Brown & Brown Insurance would like you to throw out any preconceived notions about working with people who have a developmental disability.
“You might automatically assume that, because they have a disability, that they’re unable to do the job,” says Account Executive Suzie Darst. “Out the window!” she exclaims. “Totally not the case. Not at all.”
She knows, because she’s worked with two colleagues hired through Northwest Center: Angelica, who works as an administrative assistant and manages the Brown & Brown Facebook page; and Steven, a young man with degrees in both English and Computer Science, who was hired to build the company’s website.
Last year, Luke Madsen, Managing Director at Northwestern Mutual Bellevue, was impressed when Zach asked for more work to do in his job as data entry assistant. Well, Zach got his wish: he now tracks the daily activity of an entire fleet of insurance advisors.
“I help the first- or second-year financial advisors keep track of the people they call,” Zach explains.
“In our business, you have to make a certain number of phone calls, you need to meet with a certain number of people,” says Luke. “Zach has a system that he plugs all the information into.”
The Electronetics Problem-Solver: If Lawrence Doesn't Have the Right Tool for the Job, He Makes His Own
You could call him MacGyver. Like the early ’90s TV character, 19-year-old Lawrence has made innovative, time-saving tools out of household objects like empty soup cans and AA batteries ever since he was a child. But instead of thwarting secret plots against the US Government, Lawrence uses his skills to solve business problems for his employers at Electronetics, LLC.
For some, it can take a lifetime. But for Larissa, finding the job of her dreams came just a year after joining the workforce.
“I. Love. This. Job. I’ve loved it ever since my first volunteering day,” she says, seated in a classroom at the Easter Seals Washington Child Development Center. It’s a place Larissa has volunteered for six years because she loves working with kids, but where she officially became an employee in July. She’s now a support teacher at Easter Seals Washington, assisting classroom leads with supervising and attending to the children’s daily activities.
He benches 400 pounds and has his eye on the world record. He spends his weekends at church teaching kids about personal health, and his work week at the Pacific Science Center gaining job skills. He’s got a big heart and even bigger aspirations for his future.
His name is Tevin, and two years ago, he called himself “a shy guy” with a speech impediment and a goal to one day become a full-time personal trainer. These days, he’s quite comfortable speaking to the large crowds who attend movies at the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX Theater or shows at the Laser Dome, and his progress toward personal training certification is right on track.
Jacob is more than just an employee at Cafe 50, a restaurant and coffee shop on the Microsoft campus; he’s an Ambassador. The job title is printed on his uniform apron, and he points to it proudly.
“He has a huge sense of pride,” says his mother Jeanette. “It’s his first real, paying job. He has a uniform. He’s treated like just another member of the team.”
Jacob got his job busing trays and tidying tables at Cafe 50 through School to Work, a program where Northwest Center works with students in King County graduating from their high school transition program, helping them find a place in the workforce. According to Northwest Center Transition Services Manager Melanie Cates, both Microsoft and Compass Group, the company that manages the cafe, have greatly boosted their inclusive hiring efforts.
Sitting at Craig’s work station is a small notebook, filled with dates and numbers dating back to 2005. Craig, a page assistant at the King County Library System’s Shoreline branch, has kept a tally of his productivity during every shift for nearly a decade -- making note of how many books he is able to assess and shelve during his three-hour shifts. Today, he has re-shelved 411 books -- nearly one book every 20 seconds.
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