CLEARFIELD — It starts with discovery and if all goes well, it ends with employment.
It’s a pilot program unique in the nation, set up to help those who are disabled. Roger Wilhelmsen and Derek Miller are enthusiastic about the opportunities “Pathways to careers” can provide.
“We’re working with local businesses to create opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Miller, employee relations coordinator. “There is an incentive for the employer ... and it can save taxpayer dollars. We hope this will set an example for other states.”
The program is funded through a federal contract overseen by the Institute for Economic Empowerment, the research arm of the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped.
“It’s pretty unique,” said Wilhelmsen, quality assurance program manager at Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center. Wilhelmsen is also part of the eight-person team that administers Pathways to Careers.
The first step in the program is called discovery. For four to six weeks, program staff spends time getting to know the individual.
“We see where their strengths are, which is done best through observation and interviews,” said Wilhelmsen.
Finding an employer is the next step.
“We look for needs in local businesses and we look for participants with those skills,” said Miller.
Employers are asked to bring the adults into their companies for eight- to 12-week internships.
The grant pays minumum wage to the intern. The company’s investment is in time and training.
“We want the interns to be treated like any other employee,” said Miller. “We want them to grow in a natural setting and develop skills.”
In one case, an adult who liked numbers and could drive a four-wheeler into tight spots was matched with a company that needed help tracking car parts that had been ordered.
“He caught a couple of mistakes because he’s so good with numbers,” said Miller. “He saved them money. He’s really enjoying the job and the company is really enjoying him as well.”
Companies that hire disabled adults for an internship are not required to offer a job at the end, said Wilhelmsen. Even if they don’t, the experience helps build the disabled adult’s resume. The program will coordinate up to three internships.
Interns have been placed in positions at Clearfield’s Freeport Center and at the Davis Conference Center in Layton.
More information on the program is available through Wilhelmsen at 801-402-0978 or firstname.lastname@example.org.