Didlake Creates Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities through its Two UPS Stores

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By Amy Falkofske

Sponsored by Didlake

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, persons between the ages of 16 and 64 with a disability have a Labor Force Participation rate of only 33.3%. People without a disability have a Labor Force Participation Rate of 76.2%. Non-profit organizations such as Didlake work closely with individuals with significant disabilities and employers in the community to assist in removing barriers to employment success.

Didlake Connects People with Disabilities to Job Opportunities

Since 1965, Didlake has been helping people with disabilities integrate into the workforce. They currently employ 1,400 people. In the last 10 years, they have placed over 4,000 Virginians with significant disabilities in businesses throughout Northern Virginia and Greater Hampton Roads.

“By working to remove barriers to employment for individuals with significant disabilities, Didlake and like organizations are improving the participation rate … [They’re also] reducing the unemployment rate of people with disabilities,” said Erika Spalding, Didlake’s Vice President of Corporate Communications & Marketing.

The UPS Stores Provide Opportunities for Didlake’s Program Participants

Didlake, UPS store

Woodbridge store

Didlake is both a provider of employment services and an employer. One of the ways that Didlake provides these opportunities is through its two The UPS Stores. One is at Center at Innovation in Manassas/Bristow at 9994 Sowder Village Square, Manassas. The other store is at Stonebridge at Potomac Center, 15000 Potomac Town Place, Suite 100, Woodbridge.

Both stores offer shipping and mail services as well as print services such as holiday cards, business cards, brochures and marketing materials. In fact, one of the careers that Didlake’s participants can explore at The UPS Stores is graphic design.

April Chervenka is Didlake’s Business Manager for the UPS Stores. Chervenka pointed out that the stores are a place for people with disabilities to explore a variety of customer service-related jobs with the help of a Didlake Employment Specialist.

“We discuss what types of employment individuals with disabilities are interested in, because they may not want to work at The UPS Store. They may not want to work in a retail environment, but we can simulate different environments within the store. So it’s a safe, integrated setting. We often simulate different job situations, whether they want to be working at a grocery store, working with customer service concerns, or just being able to identify the order of operations from step one, step two, step three. They can practice engaging with a customer and with co-workers,” she said.

Informational Interviews and Situational Assessments

Through its Employment Services Program, Didlake works with the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to support people with disabilities finding and maintaining employment at businesses in the community. Consumers of Didlake’s Rehabilitation Services will first get paired with a Didlake Employment Specialist. Once they determine a career that they are interested in, their Employment Specialist will connect them with businesses in that industry to do an informational interview. Through the informational interview, the participant can go and talk to someone who has the job they think they might want and learn about that job.

If the individual determines that they are still interested in the job, they will move to the second step, which is a situational assessment, where they get to actually go into the work environment and try the job for about an hour.

Didlake, UPS store

Manassas store

Although Didlake’s two The UPS Stores are a great place for someone to participate in the informational interviews and the situational assessments, these interviews and assessments can take place at any participating business in the community and encompass any career. Didlake is always looking for more businesses to work with in the community.

“We’re lucky we have these two stores,” said Chervenka. “They are a great environment to provide informational interviews and situational assessments. However, [a]ny business owner in [and near]Prince William County can provide the same service. We are always looking for businesses that are open to providing interviews, assessments and job opportunities to create successful outcomes for people with disabilities in our community.”

Protecting the Public in the Time of COVID

Didlake has been providing janitorial services for over 30 years and, according to Spalding, has “implemented janitorial best practices and processes across the organization long before the pandemic.”

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have closely monitored and implemented guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and federal and state agencies, including the Emergency Temporary Standard put into place by the state of Virginia. The safety of our employees, customers, participants and members of our community is our priority. We are working diligently to protect people and prevent the spread of COVID,” she said.

“The pandemic has really shined a light on how many people with disabilities provide an essential service to the community, our government and our military. Over 80% of our 1,400 employees are people with disabilities. Many of our employees are providing an essential service, whether they are providing a clean, safe and healthy environment for our nation’s military and federal employees, shipping needed medical supplies around the world, or providing essential services like they do at The UPS Stores,” said Spalding.

If you’d like more information about Didlake’s services, give them a call at 703-361-4195 or visit their website at didlake.org.

 

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