“Job path was suggested by my mom because a lot of the interviews I went to I had trouble setting up myself in a presentable way for them,” Sample explained. “I had a really tough time trying to go into the interviews with a positive mindset. So I was always there with the mindset of I’m probably going to get rejected. And they kind of helped me through it with upping my confidence in interviews.”
That confidence led to a job with Hart’s Local Grocers, where in three years he has honed his interpersonal skills and gained valuable knowledge about culinary arts and managing a business.
“I’ve basically done a little bit of everything,” Sample said. “I started out in prepared foods and then they moved me over to produce. I worked in produce for a couple of months and they moved me over to grocery. I worked there for a couple weeks and then I’ve been in the café for the rest of the time I’ve been there.”
While learning important skills serving customers and working a kitchen, Sample has discovered a passion for making pies.
“So far I’ve been making and selling pies on the side for family, friends and selling them for holiday gatherings,” he said. He offers apple, mixed berry and blueberry for now, but said he will expand as he learns more.
And he expects that business to lead to other entrepreneurial efforts with his brother and some friends.
“I have a bunch of fallback plans, instead of having just the one job,” he said.
Sample is one of roughly 400 people the Arc of Monroe serves through its Job Path program. The service is designed to help individuals with a wide variety of disabilities—including people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities—find and maintain employment.
“Job Path employment services ultimately is all about helping people with disabilities gain employment that is competitive and integrated in nature,” said Brandy Solomon, Job Path’s director of business relations. “We offer internship opportunities as well as helping people to gain employment in the community.”
Job Path works with more than 250 employers in Monroe County and continues to grow that number each year, Solomon said. Like any job seeker, Job Path uses every job board at its disposal to find employers and open jobs for its clients.
“Lately we’ve been able to make a lot of connections through LinkedIn. We go to job fairs and in the past we’ve helped to host job fairs,” she said. “We look at civil service exams coming up, and the different postings that the city and county do. We are going through everything to find open positions.”
Participants primarily are referred to Job Path through Adult Career & Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR). Operated by the New York State Education Department, ACCES-VR is a free service that helps people with disabilities to achieve and maintain employment and to support independent living through training, education, rehabilitation and career development.
“They come through our doors at different stages of their own employment process, whether they’re a student out of high school and never worked before, or maybe they’re looking for a new career. They’ve been doing something for 15 years and now they want to try something different,” Solomon said.
Once there, job seekers are paired with an employment specialist who works one-on-one with them to get them job ready. That includes resume creation, job seeking skills and interview preparation.
“We offer work readiness training where we’re teaching future employees soft skills that employers are expecting them to come onto the job with,” Solomon said. “After we have worked with them intensively initially and they’re doing well on the job, we move into extended services, offering them long-term follow along, whether that is on a bi-monthly basis or every other month, based on the person’s needs and the support within the business.”
Sample said his job coach helped him put together a list of 10 potential jobs, five of which he had to apply for in person and five online.
“The five that I put in in person usually got some callbacks,” he recalled. “And then some of the ones that were put in online got callbacks.”
Hart’s offers a Work Try Out (WTO) for people with disabilities. Through WTO, ACCES-VR can reimburse a business for all of an employee’s wages up to 480 hours, offering the business the opportunity to evaluate the employee’s ability to perform the job.
At Hart’s, if a position is not the right fit, managers will move people to other departments or get creative to find a position to match the employee’s skills.
Both the federal and state governments offer tax incentives for employers who hire individuals with disabilities and make workplaces accessible. Those include a federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a state Workers with Disabilities Employment Tax Credit, a state Workers with Disabilities Tax Credit, a Disabled Access Tax Credit and a Barrier Removal Tax Deduction.
But perhaps the biggest benefit of hiring individuals through the Job Path program, Solomon said, is a work ethic inherent in people who have faced struggles and disappointments but found a way past that.
“It’s been shown that they have had a life of so many things against them that when they are given an opportunity they truly rise to the occasion and flourish,” Solomon explained. “Attendance records are impeccable, right alongside their non-disabled coworker. Retention rates are typically higher with people with disabilities because they know how much work it took to get that job and now they’re committed and loyal to being there.”
Sample said Hart’s managers are willing to go the extra mile to help employees and he finds the management by walking around style helpful. And he likes that he can still rely on Job Path to help him with his career.
“This is definitely something that if you’re having trouble finding a job, keeping a job, Job Path will definitely help you,” Sample said. “They’re always there to help you and keep you on track and keep you going with your job.”
Article written by Velvet Spicer, Rochester Business Journal