A Publication of WTVP

A focus on ability offers mutual benefits for local businesses, individuals with disabilities, and the community at large.

Ability needs cultivation. Maybe it’s not articulated every day or posted on signs throughout the workplace, but it is always on the minds of PARC’s Employment Services team.

PARC’s Employment Services has been providing extensive vocational training for individuals with disabilities for well over 30 years. A 22,000-square-foot production area houses the work for an average of 90 individuals each day. Through the Organizational Employment Services Program, individuals are trained on packaging, assembly, clerical work, bulk mailing, labeling and heat sealing. That cultivation can and must breed productivity as well, and the productivity reports are impressive—even before considering that about 47 percent of the workers are non-ambulatory.

Many of these workers would never have a chance at gainful employment otherwise, but here, they can focus on improving their work habits and skills, such as speed, quality, attendance and safety, as well as learning specific job tasks. The other skills that can be developed are more related to the worker’s holistic development, such as hygiene, proper work interactions, attitude and motivation.

Those with interest in other skills have the opportunity to train and work in a variety of PARC business services, including the greenhouse and garden, vending operations, food service, document destruction, janitorial and delivery services. PARC has found the key to successful employment for individuals with disabilities is the appropriate assessment of aptitudes and abilities and tailored coaching. It is through these supports that many individuals are given the tools, the path and the opportunity to reach their employment dreams.

The development of these individuals simultaneously provides an invaluable benefit to our community, as members of a dedicated, determined and capable workforce are contributing actively to its workings. For those who are able to work in positions throughout the community, the job placement process and coaching provided through the Community Employment Services Program ensure their success in jobs they can enjoy. These workers are 100-percent ambulatory and consistently maintain and exceed the expectations of their employers, whether in the fast food, hospitality or retail industries.

The emphasis on employing and engaging the individuals in our community with disabilities is being increasingly championed from the local to the national levels. And the message is consistent: focusing on one’s ability will lead to more productive, contributing citizens and a well-balanced community and workforce.

It begins with the assumption of competence. With initiatives across the country, it is hard to miss the message that inclusiveness is the key to success for integrating individuals with disabilities into the intricate workings of our employment practices. The often uncomfortable reality for those in our field is that the current state of the economy is such that many employers are focused on their own bottom lines, and believe they are not in much of a position to consider partnering with groups advocating employment opportunities for those with disabilities. In reality, our partner-employers report that these employees are some of their most hard-working, dependable and enthusiastic workers.

The stigma that it may take much more time or resources to employ an individual with disabilities is simply not factual considering the supports provided by PARC. Yet it is encouraging to note that those who have diligently and actively advocated for providing such workforce opportunities throughout the years have seen and appreciated the benefits they have reaped.

Paul Cusack, the IPC Value Stream manager from Caterpillar Logistics, explains. “Caterpillar relies on PARC for the high level of service they provide to us and to the community with their parts packaging services. The staff at PARC eagerly accepts and meets the challenges of working within our dynamic parts distribution network. We are proud to be partnered with PARC!”

PARC is proud to partner with Caterpillar and many other corporations in our area. These partnerships always serve to be mutually beneficial and constitute several steps in the right direction toward inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the everyday operations of our businesses and economy. The truth is bigger than the impressive numbers or even the satisfied customers. It rests in the fact that a difference is being made in a life and a family. The hope that we all share—of a fulfilling employment experience—is being acknowledged and supported. iBi