Work Success Through QC

Welcome to QC Enews Empowerment

I’m often asked how Quality Connections programs help individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to work.

To answer that question, I’m turning to our amazing Employment Services Director Allie Lunsford, who understands all that goes into making sure that we empower our members – and their employers – for success in the workplace. 

Then we wanted to share the story of Trevor, whose accomplishments exemplify that process. Trevor came to us as a member of our Montessori-based training program, then transitioned to employment services, and is now working at Culver’s restaurant. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of Enews Empowerment and are having a wonderful start to this new year.

– Armando Bernasconi,
Co-Founder and CEO

The Power of Removing Barriers: QC Employment Services

While Employment Services has many, many moving parts and pieces, Employment Services Director Allie Lunsford will tell you that it comes down to two main things: 

  • Providing training and assistance to individuals with disabilities so they can find – and keep – a job.
  • Helping employers remove possible barriers to employment and supporting them as their new hire transitions into the job.

Allie has worked with individuals with disabilities for more than a decade in group homes and as a “job developer,” assisting those with disabilities identify and pursue career paths. She now leads a team of 11 people who run the numerous programs within the Employment Services division of QC. In 2022, they assisted 145 individuals as they worked toward gaining meaningful employment.

“We try to tailor everyone’s path on the individual’s talents and abilities,” she said. “It goes hand-in-hand with having a lot of different program types.”

Often this path starts with Work Adjustment Training, especially if the individual has never held a job before. This often involves simulating a workplace environment (sometimes as volunteers with partners in the community) so that the member can learn the skills needed to be successful in the workplace.

“A good example is the food industry,” Allie said. “We partner with the food banks so someone can work in a kitchen and learn those specific skills – how to prep food or how to work with a knife – plus all the soft skills like communication, teamwork, and how to manage the symptoms of their disability.

“Additional services include career exploration with a trained coach to research all aspects of two or three career paths the individual has chosen; supported education to navigate school enrollment; rehabilitation instructional services, which focuses more on life skills pertaining to employment, like self-advocacy and keeping a budget; and job development and retention, where a certified Employment Specialist teaches the individual job search skills so they can gain employment independently.

Specifically for individuals with developmental disabilities, there are group and one-on-one opportunities for support. QC Office is an excellent example of a group supported employment setting. In individual supported employment, a job coach helps the individual who has been hired in the community and needs “hand-over-hand” guidance to maintain the employment long-term.

Those job coaches are also working directly with the employer to address any issues or problems that arise.”We are always talking with the employers – and sometimes other staff members – to make sure our members are doing well or if they need extra coaching,” Allie said.

According to the statistics kept by QC, it’s a process that is working. Data from the past 8 years show that 78% of individuals who receive employment services through QC more forward in their plan to obtain a job or have started community employment.

Story of Success: Trevor

Trevor is 27. He loves video games and horror movies (he’s a particular fan of the Friday the 13th franchise.)He has a dry sense of humor and can be shy, but the moment you find a topic he knows something about, he opens up. 

Trevor also has intellectual cognitive disabilities, which make learning a challenge and create a barrier to employment and independence.

But over the years that he’s been a member of Quality Connections, Trevor has learned and progressed and now holds down a job at Culver’s, a local Flagstaff restaurant.

Trevor started with Quality Connections back in 2016, a student in our Montessori-based program for adults with disabilities. As Allie Lunsford, Employment Services Director with QC notes, the program differs some general adults day care for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“It’s pretty revolutionary, and a large part is preparing them for employment service programs,” she said. “It’s teaching them the baseline soft skills they are going to need, particularly communication.”

He then transitioned into group supported employment with QC Office, where he was part of teams that delivered office supplies and worked in customer service. Soon he was eager to go to the next step: determining what he wanted to do and finding a job in that sector. His goal was to find work at a movie theater or in the fast food industry.

About 10 months ago, he started with Culver’s. A job coach helped him learn his position giving “hand-over-hand” guidance several hours a week.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing. Initially, Trevor thrived when the job coach was there, however, it was reported he seemed to struggle without the extra guidance when working independently. But by meeting with his employer and the staff at Culver’s, QC staff were able to determine the extra training Trevor needed and provided that.

Now Trevor has grown into his role and taken on some extra duties. He takes orders, but he also walks the dining area, checking in with customers to make sure they have everything they need. He is also more independent at work; when the job coach comes to Culver’s now, it’s not to give direct guidance or provide additional training; it’s just to observe how he is doing.

Step by step, Trevor has been able to increase him employ-ability and his quality of life – with a little help from Quality Connections.

We need Quality Connections . . . like you!

You can help individuals with disabilities become independent and productive members of our community. There are many way to be a ‘Quality Connection’ and get involved and all of them are important:

Every purchase from QC Office equals employment and job training opportunities for a person with disabilities.

Enable a person with disabilities to become a productive member of our community.

You’ll be doing good. Plus, you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar credit on your AZ state taxes (up to $800!)

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