One of the first things we can probably remember learning was how to write our names. The scratch of that fat primary pencil as it scrawled across the newsprint style writing pad with all those blue-green lines on it is vividly imprinted on so many minds. This is a skill that is largely ignored when a child has been diagnosed with a disability. It is also a skill that is very necessary when searching for a job or career. It is the basis of your education. The ability to scratch out a set of symbols that identify YOU is something many take for granted. It’s a sign of independence. It is the first step towards obtaining a job in a competitive employment business. And that is why writing one’s name is a common skill that is worked on in Project:EmployMe.
What is Project: EmployMe? It is one of our newest Projects…the Projects that make up the foundation of our entire service. Recently, we sat down with our Customers and completed Satisfaction Surveys and Employment Interest Surveys. Actually, we do this monthly with each of our Customers. We learned that some of our Customers have never had a job…and never want one. Some have had jobs…and never want another. A few have reached retirement age and aren’t considering looking for employment. But a large number, just over 1/3, currently, want jobs and do not know how to get one.
When you want to get a job, you know that you must look in the newspaper, on Craigslist or Indeed, or go to the place and fill out an application. You know how to read the want ads, how to turn on your computer, or how to write your name on that application. You know, because someone WAY back in Kindergarten made sure that you knew how to write your name. Our Customers were not always afforded that skill. There was a time that people were told immediately following the birth of a baby who had an obvious disability that it would be best for them to put the baby away in a home somewhere. There was a time that people who didn’t learn the same were removed from “typical” classrooms and were taught what seemed best at the time, spelling and penmanship not being at the top of the list. Education has changed dramatically since then, but there are still multiple generations that were left behind because they had a diagnosis of developmental or intellectual disability.
The next thing those surveys brought up was, at the least, degrading and, at the most, disturbing. When Customers were asked what jobs they wanted to get, not one stated that he or she wanted to work in a sheltered workshop. Additionally, not one stated that she or he wanted to be a teacher or a doctor or a firefighter or even a trash man. The overwhelming majority of the Customers at our MetroCentre stated that they wanted to work at McDonald's or another similar fast food restaurant. Specifically, they wanted to clean the bathrooms and sweep the floors, “if they were allowed.” Those of you who have children, is this the dream you want for your child? Think back to that kid in kindergarten learning how to write your name. Is that the dream you had for yourself?
Project:EmployMe was developed to help those Customers who have been identified by themselves and their Treatment Teams as being on a career-track, move forward toward the ultimate goal of obtaining competitive employment. Since discussing the many, many career options out there, many Customers have changed their focus. Recently, Team Members started helping Customers look up job requirements for various position in which the Customer may be interested. We’ve researched how to be a “route helper” with the Trash Company (FYI if you can lift 50 lbs, follow safety rules, and pass a drug screen, you’re qualified!); what it takes to be a cashier or stocker at various stores; the job duties for an attendant at a Doggie Day Care; and what skills were necessary to be a caregiver or home health worker. Some of these dreams are unlikely to be accomplished due to circumstances beyond each Customer’s control. But many are very possible…with the right training.
That’s where Project:EmployMe comes in. Each day Customers in Project:EmployMe engage in a variety of tasks and trainings. Writing one’s name, filling out applications, beginning weight training (to get to that lifting 50 lbs mark), sweeping or wiping tables, typing on the computer, and volunteering at a choice of several places are just a few of the ways we assist our Customers in meeting their employment goals.
Do you know someone who could benefit from this kind of service, please contact us! We would love to hear from you! Do you have a nonprofit organization that could use our help while we provide training to our Customers. Let us help you! Please contact Sarah at 314 436 8831 or firstname.lastname@example.org.