Jobs are an important part of people’s lives. Yet statistics show that only 18% of people living with the label of developmental disability are employed in the US (Or said another way, 82% of people with developmental disabilities are not in the workforce). Starfire is working to change that picture. We are doing this by building people’s social connections. Landing a job often comes down to “who you know,” but the average person with developmental disabilities only has a network of 2 community relationships (unpaid, non-family, people without disabilities). At Starfire, 92% of the jobs attained with our support come directly from social connections, so we know our approach is working, even though it makes us a little different. We don’t invest people’s time and efforts on repetitive “job training readiness” such as mock interviews, resume building, or piecemeal work. Instead, we help people be “known” for their gifts and passions, so that when they apply for a job, their proven abilities are at the forefront of employer’s minds. Here are a few stories showcasing this approach.
Becky’s Story – SAF Holland
“Before I was pretty much just sitting on the couch not doing much. I was just really cut off. It got a little more real like as time went on. And I was like, I want to get out there. A lot of people at Starfire helped me out with getting my job and they had a lot of confidence that I would be able to do it and they were like, ‘this is you, so you need to get out there and you know, show ’em.’.. Now I got stuff to do and I’m not sitting there bored, so I’m busy and that’s what I like to do.”
Megan’s Story – Mt. Washington Rec Center
Celebrating Megan’s 2nd year of integrated employment!
Molly’s Story – Neyra Industries, Inc.
“I love working with the team that I’m on. Everyone knows my name, everybody’s very friendly there.”
“It has been a pleasure having Molly here. She’s always so considerate and she always remembers little tidbits about people. She’s able to help get a lot of the administrative duties out of the way. So it’s helped free up a lot of their time to make our process in finances more efficient.” – Molly’s supervisor
Emily’s Story – Ensemble Theater
“I got the job when my friend Ben from Ensemble Theater called up Starfire and was like, ‘Where’s Emily at?’ He was worried about me. I’d been volunteering for 2 years hanging up posters for plays and taking tickets during the shows. But I wasn’t able to get a ride down there anymore, and my mom couldn’t drive me down there at night because she can’t see very well.
Before Ben called I was looking for a job for 2 months. I turned in a lot of applications but it’s a lot of ‘college people’ who are getting hired – instead of calling me back. But when Ben called he asked me if I wanted a job and said, ‘yes’! I wanted that job! And he said okay. I freaked out! I was very happy.
This is my first job. The number one thing I’m looking forward to is working, and if I make some money I’ll get a laptop since we don’t have a computer at home. And I like being at a theater. I’ve been listening to musicals since I was in high school, that’s how I got into theater in the first place.
It makes me very, very happy that I know people down there.”
Mike’s Story – Contemporary Cabinetry East
Craig’s Story – Kinetic Vision
“I was at a workshop before. It was different since it was piece meal work. We had to do different tasks each day. I felt like I had to go really fast because you only get paid by the work you complete. One time at the workshop I got yelled at for going too fast. I didn’t know it, but they were low on product and they wanted to share the work around to make sure everyone got some. In my head I was just thinking, ‘I want to make some good spending cash so I’ve got to go fast.’
I quit the workshop when I got the job at Kinetic Vision. It felt really good. I like it more here because of the culture – and I get an hourly wage. I don’t have a staff always watching over my shoulder. Everybody’s nice. The boss doesn’t sound or act like bosses typically do. Every once in a while they have food trucks come and in the summer we grill out – us employees get to enjoy that. Employees will bring their kids down and other family members down.
They listen to what I say and they like the work I do. I’ve actually been showing them stuff. I feel like I’m valued.”
Adam’s Story – Everything But The House
“My last job was only temporary. I wanted to find other employment. It was just overwhelming. And I didn’t have my weekends off. Here the job level is just perfect for me. I load trucks and have them sent out. It’s different. It’s a fast paced environment which is really cool.
My boss likes having me here. He’s extremely laid back, he likes what he’s been seeing out of me. He’s just a really cool person to be with.
The best part is being able to get back in the workforce and get some money in my pocket. And I’ve been meeting a lot of new people. I hope to be there for a long time. Stick around and get to know more people and help the company grow. Help it be a well-rounded business. When I get my paycheck I’m going to probably let it sit in the bank and earn a bunch of interest.”
Congratulations to Adam (pictured middle) – who recently landed a job at a place he loves that’s in his neighborhood.
Follow our series on employment and learn more about our approach to getting more people with developmental disabilities into the workforce where they can contribute!!