“Yes You Can!” A Message from the Employment Files: Section 511 of WIOA
October 10, 2019
Have you ever thought of becoming employed in a job that you love? Have you tried working before and it just didn’t pan out? If so, you may be interested to know that new regulations have passed to help get you into the workforce. Section 511 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, known as WIOA, was created to raise expectations for employment of youth and adults with disabilities. With an emphasis on moving away from segregated settings and into the community, the purpose of Section 511 is to encourage even more people to enter the workforce. Section 511 also limits the use of sub-minimum wage to promote fair pay for all. By working with state agencies, employers and employment providers, the goal is to create rewarding integrated employment opportunities at wages with the same benefits that compete with other employees. Competitive Integrated Employment is the first and preferred outcome for working-age youth and adults with disabilities. This includes individuals with complex and significant disabilities for whom job placement in the past has been limited or unavailable. In this video, we will explore stories of four individuals who have competitive integrated jobs in our state. Many of these individuals were previously in segregated settings, or had been told they would not be able to be independent. Hopefully their stories will encourage you to explore opportunities for community-based employment and other inclusive activities. Join us as we travel the state to meet real Kentuckians, with real jobs who are contributing to the workforce in a meaningful way. First we will meet Calvin Lee who has been employed at Paducah Beer Werks in Western Kentucky for over a year. Next, Ellie Conkling of Louisville will show you how she has helped the YMCA to solve an unmet need, while increasing her own independence and self esteem. Then we will go to Benton, and meet Jake Couch to see how his love of cars landed him a job with Leon Riley Ford for over four years. And finally, Jonathan Tompkins will encourage you with the rapid success he has made at the Sirloin Stockade restaurant in Murray. Calvin has been working at Paducah Beer Werks since its opening over a year ago. Previously, Calvin had been in a sheltered workshop, where people with disabilities are employed separately from others and paid sub-minimum wage rates. Calvin’s job duties now include food preparation, dish-washing, and helping maintain cleanliness outside the restaurant. The general manager and owner agree that Calvin is an outstanding employee at Paducah Beer Werks because he does his job well and never complains. He is willing to work even on days when he is scheduled to be off. A family member helps him get to and from work and he is very dependable. First of all, Calvin has a great personality, he’s a great person to be around and brings out the best in other people. Whenever he is at work or in any setting whatsoever. As far as supports go, we check on him once every three months and unless something else does come up throughout that we need to bring attention to. Calvin enjoys his job and being able to work with coworkers to get the job done. He also enjoys engaging with customers and likes the independence of making his own money. Despite challenges that have often dictated her life, Ellie Conkling handles data entry at the YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky with confidence. When I first started the whole back of this office was filled with papers. I enter tag numbers – we’re trying to go paperless. One of my big strengths is organization. If I wasn’t here, other than the volunteer, the computer work just wouldn’t get done. Director Paul McKim and other co-workers at the Y recognize Ellie’s skills, and they rely on her to do her job with accuracy on a regular basis. Because of this, she has gained confidence and has become more independent. The office of vocational rehabilitation has even provided Ellie with a power chair so that she can engage regularly with staff, and even board a TARC bus with ease. What do you like about having a job? It makes me feel valued It makes me feel like I can be useful and not just be somebody in a chair. I can actually get stuff done. As a benefit of employment, Ellie has received a free membership at the YMCA. She enjoys working out up to three times a week with coworkers and other members of the Y. It has helped to increase her upper body strength, self-esteem, and confidence. In addition to membership, the YMCA also offers employees access to a personal wellness coach, which Ellie has used to help focus on physical activity, nutrition, and social health. It’s really neat to see the progress. Not only do I love my job, the people are really – the members are really – they’re very helpful. Jake is well-known in the community for his love of cars. He first volunteered at the car dealership Leon Riley Ford while in high school. He was then hired to empty the trash, which was a big job since there are 15 areas to attend to. A checklist helped him to remember all of the areas he needed to go to. One of his favorite part of the job was visiting with the other employees throughout his route. Since he first started over four years ago, Jake has been given additional responsibilities, like watering the plants, starting the cars in the winter, and washing the cars when it is warm. Jake’s checklist has grown with his duties to help keep them on task. On his break, Jake spends time on the internet adding to his miniature NASCAR collection with some of the money he makes. He has purchased items that he probably wouldn’t have been able to buy – had not – Jake comes from a very supportive family who really helps him reach his goals in every way possible. but with Jake, you can see the pleasure and the independence in buying and purchasing items for himself Which one are you going to buy with this check? Uhm, “The Wall”. The Wall – that’s his car he’s gonna buy with his paycheck. While dining at the Sirloin Stockade, Jon learned of a job opening in dish-washing and decided to apply. He got the job! Within the first three months of employment, Jon’s fast-pace, positive attitude, and dependability earned him a raise. He enjoys working at the restaurant and being a contributing member of the team. He and his co-workers work together to stay on task and keep the restaurant stocked with clean dishes and cooking equipment. He takes pride in what he does and owners Adam and Lisa Carver have recognized his dedication to their business. He comes in here every day with a sense of enthusiasm and just gives it a hundred percent. If I ask him to do something he doesn’t hesitate, he gets out there and takes care of it. He takes pride in doing a good job. You’re only limited by what your mindset is. I would say that it doesn’t matter if you have a disability or any problem. If you’re willing and determined hard enough to do anything, and you have the determination to get it done, then you’ll succeed. Through his hard work and commitment to the job, and the trust his co-workers and bosses have in him, Jon’s confidence in himself and his abilities continue to rise. Since beginning his job he has been able to buy a new car, lease an apartment, and even register for classes at Murray State University. Now that you have seen examples of what Competitive Integrated Employment can look like, we hope that you can imagine yourself in such a role. Finding a job that you love is possible if you’re in a position that best suits your strength and skill sets. If you’ve never had an opportunity to explore your vocational interests in work-related strength, an employment specialist can help you discover them. As you can see, employment gives people a sense of accomplishment and value, more independence and freedom to enjoy the things that they like, and a network of natural supports that can lead to friendships. In some cases individuals with disabilities who work can also become less dependent on government benefits and resources. You are the most important person in finding employment. The first step is recognizing that you have a desire to work. The next step is advocating for that need, by talking with your counselor at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or the Office for the Blind. They will guide you to get the support you need to become a successful employee. If you are overwhelmed by the thought of what employment might look like for you, we encourage you to review the stories of our four Kentuckians again.