Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Community Based Work Experience Brings Sucessful Employment Outcomes

Community based work experience (CWE) is one tool that assists unemployed adults with vision loss return to work.  Oregon Commission for the Blind business relations coordinator reaches out to and partners with
Oregon businesses to develop community work experiences for adult job seekers.  The partnership agreement includes 16-20 hours of work each week at a designated location within the company.  One example of of a successful CWE is Gresham Ford. When Lynda first approached Bess Wells to introduce the CWE concept, and to ask if she would be interested in hosting a young women at her company, Bess was a little surprised as to what a blind person could do in the auto industry.  After explaining Tracy’s skill sets and work history, her use of assertive technology to do the work, Lynda arranged an interview between the two.  The rest is history as we say. Tracy is now competitively employed as a Customer Service Manager with Gresham Ford. A few of our other community business partners are; Providence Health & Services, Dollar Tree, Safeway, Burgerville, Fred Meyer, and New Seasons. 
Returning to the work force is never an easy task for a legally blind individual but when you have experienced significant vision loss that task becomes even more difficult. However,
 with the help of Lynda Van Doran and the Oregon Commission for the Blind what appears to be an unattainable goal becomes achievable. I participated in an internship program that OCB facilitated with Gresham Ford which resulted in a part-time position that allows me the opportunity to remain a full time parent in addition to building my marketable office skills.  Gresham Ford is a wonderful company filled
with fantastic people both to work for as well as with one can not help to feel that they are part of a family. Since working at Gresham Ford, I have been motivated to be more conscious of the effects of trying local businesses first; whether that is for services or for products the impact can make or break the community in which you live in. I have also been inspired to get involved whenever the occasion emerges; all thanks to the infectious, efficacious Bess Wills.

You don’t have to see to listen and that is what a great customer service person does is LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER. Tracy McGee of Gresham Ford is an exceptional Customer Service Manager. When the Commission for the Blind approached me about employment for some of their clients I was at best a little apprehensive - blind and test drives do not usually fit in the same sentence. However, in short order we were impressed with Tracy’s phone and computer skills and she is now doing all of our Customer Service
calls in addition to other duties.  There is not a week that goes by when one of our customers does not mention how delightful or how pleasant that young lady was that gave them a call from our Dealership. In addition to her Customer Service skills she has increased our bottom line by following up with customers and encouraging customers to schedule needed service appointments. She and her sidekick, guide dog “Fazio” are great members of the Gresham Ford, “Dealer With a Heart” team. We are thankful to Lynda Van Doran and the Commission for the Blind for connecting us.

Shaun Stickel’s Success Story

written by counselor, Dennis Crepeaux
“In February of 2003, the Oregon Commission for the Blind received an email from a Mom in Portland requesting help with her deaf/blind son's education program. He was a senior at Central Catholic High School, and had just been accepted at Oregon State University. Four days later we met to discuss how the Commission for the Blind could assist her son in achieving his goal of working in the field of computers. 
Shaun was a highly motivated young person that was eager to get going on his college career, but had never addressed his vision and hearing issues while in school. Together we recognized that he needed a pre-college experience in order to give him an opportunity to experience a university setting and to identify needed accommodations, equipment, software, and specific training that hadn't been looked at through his high school program.  The Commission for the Blind sent Shaun to the Bridge Program offered through Washington Services for the Blind at Eastern Washington University.  There he experienced frustration in his lack of skills in mobility, note-taking and overall being ill-prepared to go directly into a major four year university. He had been accepted to OSU for the fall but he decided he needed further training to deal with his vision issues. He made the decision to seek out additional training through the NFB Training Program in Louisiana.  In November of 2003, instead of going to Oregon State University, Shaun was headed to Ruston, Louisiana. There in Ruston he worked on Orientation and Mobility - cane travel, introduced to Braille, computer literacy, JAWS, home economics and daily living skills, industrial arts, and social Interactions.  I had the pleasure of visiting Shaun and the NFB Center in Ruston and met with a completely different Shaun Stickel than when we met prior to this experience. He showed me around and was particularly proud of his clock he made in their Industrial Arts program. His instructors noted that he
was a hard worker and would never complain about his assignments and the regiments that he went through. Shaun completed his program in seven months returning a new person and ready to tackle a university program.  Shaun came home and started at Portland State University in pre-engineering with the focus on computers. The following year he transferred to Oregon State University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. As he was about to graduate, the e-mail he sent me to me by the Commission for the Blind has proved vital while at Oregon State, having been used in the completion of many major projects and assignments and having been a vital component in my senior project. This assistance provided by the Commission for the Blind has been greatly appreciated.  I have enclosed an update on my progress here at Oregon State in the form of a transcript in an effort to help show the progress of the Commission for the Blind's investment in my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, Shaun Stickel, Undergraduate, EE, Oregon State University.”  In August of 2009 Shaun started his first job at TriMike Creations in Albany, Oregon as a Computer Systems Engineer. He started out earning $12 an hour. The agency helped him with the purchase of a new hearing aid. After a few months at TriMike Creations, Shaun moved to Boise, Idaho where he is now working for Micron Technology, Inc. as a Computer Project Engineer, earning a salary of $63,500 per year with benefits.  Shaun is a remarkable young person, who has achieved so much in such a relatively short time. He was someone that recognized early the need for training to address the barriers to achieve his goals. Because of his drive to be successful and his openness to conquer the obstacles that were in front of him, we were able to work together in planning an Individual Plan for Employment that would encompass a step by step process, using his attributes and interests, towards building his skills to best prepare him in taking advantage of the training he received through Oregon State University.” 

Oregon Commission for the Blind November 2010 Newsletter