After graduating from High School in 2007, Kristen got a job working in the kitchen at a popular local restaurant. Unfortunately that job only lasted about a year before Kristen felt she had to quit. “I didn’t get treated well and wasn’t properly trained. They would throw jobs at me without explaining how to do them.”

When she wasn’t able to do everything to their liking, Kristen says they yelled at her, and it was not a good work environment.

But it wasn’t that Kristen didn’t have the skills needed, she just needed them to understand how to teach her.

In late 2010, Kristen found her way to the Occupational Development Center and for nearly 11 years she has excelled in all of her work. Once she is trained on how to do a job, she learns quickly and can work independently and at a good pace. She has gained confidence in her abilities and loves what she does. She has even been a key member of our Small Group Employment program with Kinsey’s Outdoor. She is ready to look for more work in the community but is worried about the job application and interview process. You see, a traditional resume doesn’t work well for her or most of our other participants here at the ODC.

That’s where a new $10,000 capacity building grant from the Lancaster County Community Foundation comes into play. We have just received this grant which will help us launch a new video program that will help our participants find work, while at the same time prepare businesses to better work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

This grant allows us to purchase video equipment and software which we will use to create video resumes for our individuals. While they don’t have the work experience and other experiences that translate well to a paper resume and application, a video resume opens up new possibilities. A video resume gives our participants a better chance to shine and show off their skill sets, personalities, and employability.

At a time when many businesses seem to be frustrated with the lack of skilled workers needed to fill vacant positions, particularly during the pandemic workforce recovery, the ODC is poised to help fill the gap. The unemployment rate for those with I/DD is greater than 80%. Many of these individuals are ready, willing, and able to fill those vacant jobs. What they need are the tools to help them

In addition to creating video resumes, the ODC also plans on using the grant to create an ongoing series of “employment scenario training” videos for prospective employers. These videos will help local businesses understand what it means to hire an individual with I/DD and prepares those businesses for that reality.

Kristen says she wishes the restaurant “knew how to deal with my disability and my memory. They needed to be more patient and kind, and accepting of people with disabilities.”

While the ODC trains individuals to make them more employable, the scenario training videos will meet prospective employers where they are to help them create and sustain disability-friendly workplaces. Each video will focus on likely situations that could happen in the workplace, while explaining to employers how best to deal with them.

This two-pronged approach tackles the employment equation from both sides and sets both ODC participants and employers up for lasting success.

Here at the ODC we want to help participants like Kristen find the perfect job within a community setting where they can succeed and enjoy what they do. Helping them gain skills, earn a paycheck, and find employment sets them on a path toward greater independence.

So, over the next few months we will be acquiring this equipment, learning how to use it (and even training some of our participants to use it!), and creating all sorts of new videos and content, some of which will make it’s way to this blog and our social media pages. And…it’s going to be a lot of fun!

We are grateful for the Community Foundation and their willingness to entrust us with this grant so that we can help make a difference in Kristen’s life, and the lives of our other participants.