Building a Successful Career

HinojosaJulio_blog

“Working at PRIDE has helped me accomplish my goals and brought me professional success.”

Julio Hinojosa is a young adult with a borderline intellectual disability that has earned a successful career with PRIDE Industries. Approximately 6.5 million people in the United States have an intellectual disability, which occurs when a person experiences limitation in cognitive functioning and problem-solving. These individuals have a harder time finding employment options and participate in the labor force at about half the rate of typically developing adults. However, given the right environment and support, people with intellectual disabilities can fulfill needed career positions and make excellent employees.

Julio graduated from a high school transition program that assisted students with disabilities to help find employment and learn independent life skills. As part of the program, he completed vocational training in electrical work, expressing interest in working in a technical field. With this preference, Julio was referred by the Department of Rehabilitative Services in 2011 to PRIDE Industries’ Ft. Bliss, TX facilities and maintenance contract – starting his career working as a Grounds Maintenance Laborer in the Roads & Grounds department.

Adjusting to a new trade was not always easy. Due to his disability, Julio struggled with problem-solving on the job and had difficulty using the correct writing to explain the work he performed on service orders. With help from his supervisor, coworkers and job coach, he learned how to write down his orders with accuracy and worked on maintaining concentration to finish assigned tasks on time.

“Julio is very shy,” says Rehabilitation Manager Shannon Bloxham. “He required a lot of guidance, but has learned by observation and hands-on training – improving his confidence and skills.”

Within this supportive environment, Julio continued to advance in his career. He was promoted to Maintenance Trades Helper in the Electrical department in 2014 and later to General Maintenance Worker in 2016. Furthering his expertise, he entered the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Apprenticeship program and is now a year shy of finishing the four-year program. With guidance and mentorship from his coworkers, Julio passed his State Journeyman Electrician’s exam in 2017 and was promoted to Electrician.

Working for PRIDE not only brought career success but also carried over in Julio’s personal life. He recently got married and purchased his first home. “I enjoy the hands-on-work of electrical work and perfecting my craft while working in the welcoming environment at PRIDE,” says Julio. “Julio is a very hard-working employee and has shown dedication and ambition to get to where he is today,” says Shannon Bloxham.

We help each other, like a family.

Mattheiw and Javier, Ft. Bliss

PRIDE Industries employees Mattheiw, Maintenance Trades Helper and Javier, Electrician at Ft. Bliss, TX

When he was first interviewed at a job fair for PRIDE Industries’ D.P.W. basewide facilities support contract at Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX, Matthiew was extremely shy and nervous. He has a disability that impacts his ability to interact with others. While he completed high school, he had dreams, but no real plan for the future. Matthiew took electrical and construction vocational training courses through a transition program at his school. Still, he was unsure how to proceed.

Workers with disabilities suffer from one of the lowest employment rates of any group in the American population, even in times of prosperity.  With 45 years of experience preparing people with disabilities for employment, PRIDE Industries saw through Matthiew’s disability to his potential. PRIDE Industries’ AbilityOne™ contract at Ft. Bliss provided the perfect opportunity for Matthiew. The AbilityOne Program is a Federal initiative to help people who are blind or have other significant disabilities find employment by working within a national network of over 600 Nonprofit Agencies that sell products and services to the U.S. government.

“Matt has a great attitude,” said George, Electric Shop Supervisor, who paired him with Javier, a PRIDE electrician, because of his patience, teaching and mentoring abilities.

Transitioning Supports
When first transitioning to employment, a job coach provides critical support to individuals with disabilities, helping them navigate and gain the technical and soft skills necessary for success.  Decreasing Matthiew’s initial social anxiety was critical to his success because of the amount of communication and interaction required to accomplish the facilities support tasks at Ft. Bliss.  Javier and his coach worked with  Matthiew to understand that in a workplace, communication is as important as the work itself.

Creating a bond
At PRIDE, we know that the support of  co-workers is as important as that of job coaches and trainers in helping to ensure the success of individuals with disabilities. Javier and Matthiew work primarily on the air field at Fort Bliss, repairing runway lighting and signage. They have developed a strong working relationship and bond. “He shows enthusiasm, and is excited every day about new projects,” says Javier. “We work side-by-side, and his positive attitude  is contagious. It motivates me to teach him new things, and to help him meet his goal of becoming an electrician.”  The admiration is mutual. Of Javier, Matthiew says, “he is very nice, patient, and gives me knowledge. We help  each other, like a family.”

Matthiew has become increasingly self-sufficient, on and off the job.  He gets up at five o’clock in the morning to be ready for work, and rides public transportation independently.  He is working toward his apprenticeship license, and eventually wants to become a fully licensed electrician. “Working for PRIDE makes me happy and makes me what I am,” says Matthiew. “I enjoy going to work every day.”

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a perfect time to celebrate the real abilities and successes of individuals with disabilities like Matthiew. His story, and those of thousands of other PRIDE Industries employees are why we continue to be driven by our mission: to create jobs for people with disabilities.