Work Immersion Program Helps Adults With Disabilities Find Jobs

URBANDALE, Iowa — A local work immersion program is helping adults with disabilities find jobs in the community. Goodwill of Central Iowa brings in four interns to participate in a nine month work immersion program, which is at the Urbandale Hy-Vee this year.

“Anyone [over the age of 18] with a developmental or intellectual disability can apply to our program,” Goodwill Project SEARCH instructor Sam Pattison said.

During the 8 hour work day the interns are paid minimum wage by Goodwill but work as a Hy-Vee employee. They work in several different departments of the store such as the deli, the meat department and on the floor.

The skills interns learn during the work immersion program apply to many career opportunities in retail, food preparation and customer service. Interns begin their day in a small group setting learning what the instructor calls “soft skills.”

“So when they work with me they learn how to talk to customers, how to remember the layout of the store, how to fill out an application or how to ace an interview, all sorts of different soft skills that you would expect a professional to have,” Pattison said.

Goodwill  Project SEARCH is going into its sixth year and Pattison, who has lead the program for three years, said the program is very special to him.

“I’ve seen folks who come into the program who typically get overlooked for applying at other jobs and watching them grow and become not just someone who can be employed but someone who’s a professional and career minded,” Pattison said.

Twenty-two-year-old Anthony Moriarity is a graduate of the 2017 program and says he learned a lot about working hard and working with people.

“I’m able to work in the community, and learn new skills through classes and working with others in the different departments I was in,” Moriarity said.

Moriarity’s grandmother Sherri Rossiter said she saw immense growth in her grandson, the program not only improved his work ethic but also raised his self-esteem.

“He was so excited about coming to work all the time and being able to show people that he could help someone, anyone and do the job,” Rossiter said.

This year’s Goodwill Project SEARCH program is scheduled to start in March and applications are due on February 20th. Only four interns are chosen and Pattison said between 10 and 40 people apply every year.

Click here for a link to the application.