Monday, July 22, 2019

James Welds His Way Into The Workforce


James and his Vocational Counselor, Nancy, began working together in June of 2016, when they began looking for his current position. James began working at Hampton Sheet Metal in January of 2017 where he was the first client hired that utilized Supported Employment services. He had a welding certificate but no welding work experience. Nancy and James worked with his DARS Counselor using OJT (On the Job Training) which is a program where DARS will pay for the client's first few months of pay while they are in training, as a way to advocate to employers to give him a chance. Employers will not hire people without welding experience so they used OJT as a way to advocate for James to get an employer to give him a chance. After many months of contacting several employers, Nancy was finally was able to get Hampton Sheet Metal to take a chance on James with the OJT program. He ended up doing very well and they kept him on. James has received several raises over the years and has recently received a $2 an hour raise. He initially was hired as a Helper, but in the last year was promoted to Sheet Metal Welder, after passing their customized welding test. 
James is a hard worker and very dedicated and motivated to learn new things. He has an excellent work ethic and he strives for perfection. Although James struggles with internal stress and cognitive deficits, he has found great success in his current position. In the beginning, James had a limited work history and had to find a job on the bus line, which was an obstacle both Nany and James overcame with finding this employer. His managers say he has a great work ethic and has opportunities to continue growing there.
His daily tasks include shutting down the shop at closing, and also helping open the shop in the mornings. He does various jobs that include cleaning, helping others, welding, and finishing. James moved from LTESS/follow along into the Ticket to Work Partnership Plus program in May of 2017. Nancy continues to assist him in maintaining his employment and keeps monthly contact with him, while also occasionally checking in with his supervisors. James is a much happier, and a more positive person, since he has started working there and is now able to support himself. In his free time, he likes to ride mini motorcycles. James is also a painter and also enjoys playing online video games.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Keith Gets Cooking in The Kitchen



Keith and his Vocational Counselor began working together in early 2015. Keith has been employed with his current employer, a KFC/Taco Bell, going on four years now. 
In the beginning, his Vocational Counselor contacted employers in the area to see who was hiring. Keith was interested in both customer service and food service. Both he and his Vocational Counselor completed several applications which resulted in a job offer for a Lobby Attendant/Dishwasher position at Golden Skillet, but things didn't work out. After about a month and a half, the restaurant had to close due to poor business. At that time, Keith went back into job development, where together he and his Vocational Counselor were able to secure a new position as a Lobby Attendant at a local KFC/Taco Bell. Keith was later offered an additional responsibility of unloading the trucks. From there, Keith eventually tried fry cooking, where he continues to work full-time today. Initially, Keith was hesitant to accept more responsibility, but with encouragement from his Vocational Counselor and managers, he took on more cooking and food prep responsibilities. On top of being offered more responsibility, he also has received three raises since he began working for the company, with his last raise being $1.25 more an hour!
It was not all smooth sailing though, and he and his Vocational Counselor worked hard to get him to where he is today. The first obstacle was that Keith initially did not have a driver's license or transportation, so they had to find an employer that he could walk or bike to. He also did not have any previous work history. He was eager to work though, and they were able to find him a job near his home. Since he has been working at KFC/Taco Bell, Keith has been able to get his driver's license and now drives himself to work. Keith also now has four years of experience in food service doing a variety of tasks which is great for his resume and future job searching. He initially was a very shy person and had difficulty interacting with strangers, but since he has begun working, he is much more sociable and his confidence has improved greatly. He was used to be scared to try new positions at work, but with encouragement, he has taken on additional new tasks. 
Keith is very easy going, has a good sense of humor, and gets along well with his coworkers which makes him a great asset to the team. In the beginning, his job tasks included cleaning the lobby, restrooms, parking lots, and cleaning the kitchen area. He then moved on to unloading the truck and organizing, sorting and putting away the stock. Now Keith has moved onto only cooking duties and loves every minute of it. He also helps with the trash and general cleaning of the kitchen when necessary.
His Vocational Counselor visits him monthly, or contacts him and his managers, to see how he is progressing. His managers have been very supportive of Keith and his coworkers have stated how much they love having him around. 
Keith enjoys going to the library in his free time and also enjoys playing video games. Every other day Keith takes time to exercise and workout to keep up with his physical health. He also enjoys helping his grandma by going grocery shopping for her and helping her pay for their internet and electric bills.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mark Makes His Mark


Mark Stockton is employed as a Garden Helper at Windmill Heights Garden Center located in Culpeper, VA where he has been working for about 9 months during the seasonal months. Mark and his Vocational Counselor have been working together, through The Choice Group, for a little over a year now.
Mark began support by trying out different job positions through services called Situational Assessments. Through the assessments, it was determined that he enjoyed working outside with his hands as he has previous experience as a farm hand. Mark received supports through DARS and the WiOA program that allowed him to pursue his interests of horticulture/lawn care through the WiOA internship. After Mark had completed an internship with WiOA, Windmill Heights Garden Center brought Mark back for part-time support completing lawn care and gardening tasks. Mark enjoys completing routine tasks and being outside in the cooler weather working, and also has a very direct and friendly style of communication that allows him to be approachable by many.
Some obstacles that Mark overcame were communication skills and learning to ask questions, as well as advocating for himself. Mark continued to build his endurance from 4 hours a week to 12 hours a week which allowed him to become more ambitious to make a goal to work full-time in the near future. Also, due to seasonal positions in lawn care, he overcame the question of "what do I do now for 3 months during the winter?". With some support from his Vocational Counselor, he began completing volunteer work in the local community during the winter months to maintain his endurance and communication skills. Mark has grown as an individual, as well as a member of his community, by persevering through multiple obstacles and continues to build his confidence of overcoming future obstacles.
Mark's job tasks include weekly lawn care, trash collection, customer services, and horticulture tasks of planting different plants as assigned. He continues to improve his communication skills and will ask questions directly when needing guidance. Mark has also gained more self-confidence in himself and takes pride in his work.
His Vocational Counselor supports Mark by discussing and practicing different communication methods that work for him. He has built his endurance by scheduling breaks at different times throughout his shifts, as well as advocating for task lists for each shift as a compensatory strategy to help him learn the routine of tasks.
Mark enjoys spending time with his family and friends, as well as volunteering in the community, when he is not working. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Veronda, the Super Supervisor


Veronda Rooks-Price is a Supervisor at a call center in Hampton, where she has been employed for a little over 2 years. Nancy, her Vocational Counselor, began working with Veronda in 2014, when they initially found a position that did not work out, before finding her current job.   
DARS helped her get back into job development again, after losing her initial job. With the help of DARS, and Nancy, Veronda landed her current position where she has been successfully employed for over 2 years. 
In the beginning, Veronda was interested in Human Resources and Management positions at a call center. Veronda completed her own applications and went on interviews independently, and Nancy assisted her with finding job leads and following up on them to secure interviews.
Veronda currently makes a good supervisor because she is friendly and caring. She is a team builder and transformational leader and brings great energy to her team.
Before finding her current success, Veronda was feeling dejected after losing her first position due to a background check situation, so she struggled with staying positive initially. Now that Veronda is a survivor, she has completely turned things around. Aside from hitting a few bumps in the road, Veronda and her employer are very happy with the hire. 
Veronda manages productivity as her agents take customer service-based calls and is a great asset to the company. Her current position provides financial stability so that she is able to continue to do volunteer work with women and girls in the community. Since Veronda is in a supervisory position, she uses rewards as an incentive for her team. She has done things like having an appreciation tea for her team, a beach balls and balloons celebration, and consistently celebrates team member birthdays throughout the year. 
Nancy follows up with Veronda monthly to monitor stability, as well as annually to complete paperwork. Veronda has found solace in Nancy, and often calls her to vent or to talk job related ideas or concerns. 
Veronda is notably much happier as a person in her current position. She also states that, “her job has helped her to become a more patient person”, and that she now learns to focus more on the journey rather than the destination.
Her teammates make her feel special on a regular basis. For her birthday this past March, her team decorated her work bay in her sorority (Sigma Gamma Rho) colors and they all dressed in the sorority colors. They also filled her desk with various presents. She said that she was surprised and crying tears of joy all day long! 
Veronda does a lot of volunteer community work through her sorority for women and girls in the community, while also being a Rhoer Advisor. Rhoers are middle school and high school girls within the sorority and they have 7 in her chapter. In addition, Veronda is also in the process of finishing her dissertation for her PHD in Public Policy and Administration.