AUTHOR: Michael Gardner
AGENCY: Skills of Central PA
Rachael Lenhart (left) is the manager at the State College Quality Inn where Will Fick (center) works supported by Matt Prough (right).
October is recognized annually as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Skills of Central PA would like to remind the local business community that people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health challenges are a vital part of our local workforce, especially as businesses continue to deal with staffing shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Skills supports people throughout the region as they develop the skills needed to prepare for, find, and succeed at work. To a large extent, we rely on the willingness of local businesses to help us.
Some businesses open their doors for community-based work assessments that help
us evaluate a person’s skills in an actual work situation. Others offer job shadowing
experiences that allow a person to see if a job is a good fit for them. Others provide
paid work experience where a person supported works at the business but is paid by Skills rather than by the employer. The best of all scenarios is when a local business hires someone Skills supports directly.
Will Fick is a young man who works at the Quality Inn in State College. He receives employment services support from Skills of Central PA. “I like folding towels and cleaning the machines,” he says. “I like my co-workers. My favorite music to listen to while folding towels is Johnny Cash. I am always excited to try new tasks. Next, I'm going to learn how to wrap sandwiches. I also love telling knock-knock jokes.”
“Will is such a joy to work with,” says Rachael Lenhart, manager at the Quality Inn where Will works. “He comes in every day and the whole staff brightens up when they see him. He works hard and the towels are perfect! He catches every single spot on them. His co-workers actually fight to get on the schedule with him. We all need our weekly dose of Will.”
Matt Prough is the Skills Employment Training Specialist who supports Will. “I enjoy supporting Will,” he explains. “He's a lot of fun to work with and always tries to put a smile on your face. He knows his job well, and they do a great job supporting him there.”
The people that Skills supports are ready, able, and excited about finding jobs, and we have many success stories to share. If you own or manage a local business, we strongly
encourage you to consider integrating people with disabilities into your workplace.
To learn more about the support services that Skills provides or to talk to an Employment Specialist about hiring employees at your business, please visit www.skillsofcentralpa.org or call 814-238-3245. Together, we can make a difference!