Finding a new career after leaving the workforce due to illness or disability can often be a daunting task. Joey Guillot is a carpenter at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Polk in Louisiana. After a long period of unemployment due to his disabilities, Joey found a new place and career at PRIDE. To get to this point, he worked with much determination to overcome the numerous barriers posed by his disabilities.
As a result of an unaddressed learning disability, Joey became discouraged as a young student and dropped out of high school during his freshman year. Since he had left school so early, he never received the help needed to overcome his illiteracy. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, Joey found work in the community and built a self-sufficient life.
However, later in life, Joey developed peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet and other parts of the body. His condition worsened to the point of almost near paralysis. Due to complications, Joey was forced to leave the workforce in 2001. After the unexpected death of his wife of 25 years, he also began to struggle with depression and alcohol abuse, and his life took a turn for the worse.
Although Joey received Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, he never felt as fulfilled as when he was working. As the effects of his neuropathy began to improve, Joey decided to re-enter the workforce and search for a new career. Determined to reach his goal, he applied for employment services with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) in April 2014.
In spite of the many challenges that he faced, Joey strived to change his life Searching for a new career would not prove an easy task; a 13-year resume gap, lack of high school diploma, struggles with depression and substance abuse, and neuropathy all were great obstacles to even getting an interview. Furthermore, Joey’s illiteracy prevented him from completing a GED program or learning another trade. Joey worked closely with his LRS counselors to manage his depression and maintain sobriety. Fortunately, the search ended in 2014 when LRS referred Joey to a training program at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Ft. Polk.
PRIDE ended up being the perfect opportunity for Joey; after four weeks of on-the-job training, he was hired as a general maintenance worker in the carpentry shop. “PRIDE Industries has been a blessing to this region because they give people with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful employment,” says LRS Counselor Don Green. “There are few employers in Beauregard and Vernon Parish (a rural area) that provide opportunities for earning good wages as well as accommodations for employees with disabilities.”
To help Joey succeed in his job, PRIDE’s rehabilitation staff provides counseling and job coaching. They have also worked with him on improving his literacy skills, and Joey is currently earning his GED. “Joey is a very hard and determined worker who does not allow his disability to hold him back from accomplishing anything he wants. He is capable of completing any task that is set in front of him,” says Rehabilitation Counselor Sonja Matthews. Joey’s hard work and perseverance impressed his supervisors; when a carpenter position became available, he applied and was hired on October 3, 2015. Joey has continued to thrive in his new role and is currently aiming to become a carpenter lead.
With support, Joey was able to turn his life around. Steady employment, and along with a supportive network which included his father, church community, and his LRS counselor, Joey has managed his depression and successfully maintained sobriety. He also recently married Mrs. Angela Pratt in October 2015 and is greatly satisfied with his new position and positive outlook on life.