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Diversity at Work
PK USA is awarded for its efforts to integrate disabled into the workforce
by B.J. Fairchild-Newman
In today’s business world, “diversity” is a hiring goal for most companies.
But diversity no longer refers only to race, gender, nationality and religion; it also refers to including those with disabilities in the employee pool.
Shares Inc. recognized PK USA Inc. as Employer of the Year this week, and the award acknowledges PK’s commitment to giving employees with disabilities a chance.
Shares, 1611 S. Miller St., has a program called Community Employment Services, or CES, that assists consumers with disabilities in their quest to find jobs. Many of these people are able and quite eager to work alongside workers without disabilities, and CES helps those special workers with the transition and necessary adjustments.
PK USA, 600 Northridge Drive, currently has seven employees on its payroll who are connected with the company through CES. CES, a department of Shares, often works through referrals from the state and other agencies; the people who are referred are sometimes considering returning to work after an illness or injury, or they want to leave the confines of a sheltered workshop.
Shares has four employment specialists who are trained to work with the disabled population. They interview potential employees and try to determine what kind of job the consumer wants as well as what they are suited to do. Employment specialist Brian Montgomery said that finding the right fit between the employer and the employee can be tricky, but once the right job meets the right employee, all parties are usually very happy.
PK currently employs seven workers who were introduced to their factory by Shares’ employment specialists, and six employees do PK work in the sheltered workshop. Sometimes, the workers need certain accommodations to be successful in their jobs. For example, one worker needed additional light in order to do his job of stacking parts, so PK shouldered the expense and installed new overhead lighting.
Montgomery said that the willingness to make accommodations for workers is one reason that PK earned its award.
“Many of our workers are capable of very good work,” Montgomery said, “but some of them need the extra help and boost of a job coach to make it possible for the employee to succeed.”
For some workers, a few weeks of supervision is sufficient, and after learning their jobs and getting toknow their co-workers, a job coach only needs to check on them periodically. For other workers with more severe disabilities, the coach might stay with the person indefinitely.
PK is so pleased with the seven workers at its factory that it is clamoring for more employees.
According to Bill Kent, PK USA vice president of human resources and administrative affairs, the workers who the company hired through the Shares program are some of the best employees at the factory.
“They are on time; they show up for work, and they have a good attitude,” Kent said.
Ernie Mullins, production manager at PK, noted that sometimes the employees brought to PK by the employment specialists can outwork their co-workers.
“These people are often so glad to have a job that they will work very hard,” Mullins said. “Their production often exceeds their quotas.”
One such worker is Earl Brady. He runs a trim machine for parts at PK and often does as much in six hours as some other workers do in eight.
Terry Owens, manager of shipping, receiving and E-coat at PK, said that the six workers referred to PK by Shares work in the section of the factory that he supervises.
“They do a good job,” he said. “They work hard.”
Montgomery said that the general employees at PK, along with the supervisory staff, have been instrumental in making the CES program work.
Mullins said that PK met with its employees and discussed the program with them before the first disabled worker started at the factory this year, and the employees were enthusiastic and helpful from the beginning.
Montgomery added that some of the workers in the Shares program just needed the extra push provided by the employment specialists.
“Without the extra help and support,” Montgomery said, “some of these workers had a hard time getting an employer to look beyond their disabilities and give them a chance. The employment specialists can help them fill out resumes correctly, work with them on interviewing or talk with potential employers and help solve problems.
PK USA’s success with the program has given them the confidence to issue a challenge to other industries in the area.
“If other local factories would hire as many workers (through the Shares program) as we do, we will give them our award,” Mullins said.
Factories that are willing to give Community Employment Services the opportunity to hook them up with good employees can receive some tax advantage incentives for participating as well as demonstrating to the community their recognition of the importance of diversity in the workplace.
Those who are interested in finding out more about the program may contact Montgomery at Shares at (317) 398-8218.
Copyright 2018 PKUSA Inc.