We often take our jobs for granted. We like our coworkers, we like what we do… but for many people, a job’s a job.
However, when you really think about it, our jobs are a big part of who we are. They consume about half of our waking life! It’s where we accomplish personal goals, make mistakes, learn how to communicate with others, make a living, and hopefully feel a sense of self worth.
Today, we want to spotlight one of our newer employees, who truly shows the empowerment of employment.
Justin’s story begins with Project SEARCH, an Employment & Training Program through Easterseals. Project SEARCH is a transition program that trains adults with disabilities for employment. It’s similar to an internship, and takes place entirely onsite at a host business from September through early June. Justin completed his Project SEARCH tenure at Waukesha Memorial Hospital–one of several local hospitals involved in the program. In addition to on the job training, participants also learn interpersonal skills, resume writing, and understanding company policies.
Lori Stankiewicz is a Workforce Development Specialist with Easterseals Southeast Wisconsin. She explains, “The whole concept of Project SEARCH is to walk away with on the job training skills that can be applied to other jobs.”
Justin did very well during his time with Project SEARCH. Once that was completed, a job developer came on board, and Justin did a temporary work experience at our Steinhafels Dreams Mattress Factory in New Berlin. This temporary experience gives people like Justin the opportunity to work on the job, and can potentially lead to a hire.
The Dreams factory was not the best fit for Justin, but that’s OK. Our Human Resources Department saw Justin’s potential, and thought maybe the Distribution Center at our Corporate Store in Waukesha would be a better fit. Well…Justin took off running and never looked back! With the support of his job coaches, and the ‘natural supports’ of his coworkers and supervisors, Justin quickly learned the tasks in the recycling area.
Justin’s job is very important to warehouse productivity. He takes the trash bins from the furniture assembly area, puts the contents in the trash compactor, and then returns the bins to their original spots so assemblers can continue working and not lose time emptying trash.
Justin also works on balers for cardboard and plastic. These are very important to Steinhafels’ recycling efforts. Lori says she is proud Justin can be a part of this process. “I think Steinhafels has done a really great job of recycling material. The team members throughout the warehouse are doing it, and that’s great.”
Lori explains that Justin has also learned how to ‘wire’ the cardboard bale, which basically secures the cardboard as it moves through the baler. In the end, a bale of cardboard weighs at least 1200 pounds! The bales are eventually loaded on a semi and shipped off to be recycled.
Justin is the picture of focus while at work. Lori gives a laugh and says, ”Justin just really loves to work. He doesn’t like to chit chat.. he’d rather just work.”
But it’s more than physical labor and collecting a paycheck. Justin’s mom Theresa explains, “He now has a better attitude in general, and I think he has more self worth. I believe that Justin has worked hard to get where he is today, and is a true success story for a little boy that was diagnosed moderate to severe autism 22 years ago.”
Justin learned the job so quickly that job coaches were able to step back early, and he now works independently. His first day on the job as an official employee was January 6. Talk about a great way to kickoff 2017!
We asked Lori how it makes her feel to see a success story like Justin. She says, “I gotta say the first time I saw him in his uniform was awesome, and I’ve also seen his level of confidence grow. It’s just great. It just shows that everyone has the possibility of working in the community, and having a meaningful working experience.” She adds, “The biggest thing is you’re seeing people and their abilities…that’s really what we’re striving for.”
Justin is a man of few words (his favorite word is “Alright”), but there’s no denying he loves his job. Lori says, “He shows it by the big smile he has while working, especially while all the cardboard is being crushed!”
You can learn more about Project SEARCH by clicking HERE!