Meaningful program creates workplace efficiencies and opportunities for employees
King County’s Supported Employment Program matches job seekers with developmental disabilities to available jobs by identifying efficiencies and unmet needs throughout King County departments. The program allows each department to review its standard work practices utilizing Lean principles. A job coach is also available to help supported employees thrive in the workplace.
Christina Davidson, Supported Employment Program Manager shares how meaningful this can be in several ways.
“When creating opportunities to be more inclusive with our hiring we are also creating efficiencies and cost savings in departments,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to get to hire more inclusively and have it also help your bottom line.”
One of these new hires is Mariam Laine, who recently started working in the Department of Public Defense (DPD) in the Client Clothing Room. DPD maintains a clothing room to support their clients with trial clothing for court appearances, so they hired Mariam to maintain, organize, inventory and fill requests for trial clothing for all of the divisions. Mariam also supports the finance department by scanning digital receipts for assigned counsel cases. Prior to centralizing the Client Clothing Room, all of the DPD divisions were maintaining their own clothing and purchases.
“There was no standard process, so we took a Lean approach and created one large clothing closet for all the divisions to utilize,” said Laura Federighi, Chief Financial Officer for DPD. “I thought that managing the clothing room and supporting with administrative needs in our department seemed like a good fit for the Supported Employment Program.”
“There are so many jobs that people can do if we structure them right. Employees in the Supported Employment Program bring so much to the worksite.”
Terry Howard, Project/Program Manager III and Mariam’s direct supervisor, agrees. She shares that Mariam has been a great help in the workplace, handling incoming requests and inventory as well as maintaining the clothing room.
“Mariam’s been a great fit too. She is eager to learn and takes pride in her work. She’s also a joy to work with.”
Mariam takes satisfaction in her work, and the opportunity it has provided her to become independent. Helping employees grow and share their skill sets with one another is an important part of the program.
“I feel happy here and I like working full time. I am able to move into my own apartment, which was a goal of mine,” she said. “I have enjoyed meeting new people, making friends and learning new things. I am pretty shy, so my coworkers have helped me to feel more comfortable.”
Another supported employee is Chris Noel, who works at the Department of Elections as a Data Entry Assistant. His position works to process voter records. The Elections office receives a high volume of voter records each day from the Department of Licensing that need to be processed within the voter tracking system.
Kim Streeter, Program Supervisor I, shared how important it is these records are updated regularly and kept in order.
“Our average amount of records per day is 800. When we have to pause for the election cycle and those individual records start really building up. It has gotten up to 28,000 records,” she said.
Chris was brought on board to verify voter registration information for new and existing voter accounts. His work has helped him gain new skills. It has also opened up training and mentoring opportunities for members of the team to train Chris on the standardized procedures.
“Hiring Chris has helped us keep up with our records. It has also giving other employees leadership opportunities to provide training to him,” Kim said. “Chris is great at his work. He is dependable and dedicated to doing a good job.”
Chris’s job coach helped onboard him at Elections with the initial training, and now checks in regularly to support Chris, Kim and the entire team when needed. The work varies and allows Chris to get to know his coworkers and feel that he is making a visible impact.
“I like working in a quiet atmosphere where everyone is friendly and helpful. I enjoy doing different tasks,” he said. “After being unemployed for two years, finding a job that I really enjoy, and receiving positive feedback about my work, I feel really happy to come to work every day.”
The program is doubly effective as it meets line of business needs, but does so in a way that provides real value to each supported employee. Departments within King County who participate in the program benefit from a dedicated employee who cares about their work.
“The Supported Employment Program continues to grow. We are now have 55 supported employees within King County,” said Christina.
“Big thank you to the leadership in Department of Public Defense, Elections, and other departments for utilizing the Supported Employment Program to fill their business needs.”
To support the Department of Public Defense with a clothing donation, contact Terry Howard at Terry.Howard@kingcounty.gov.