WorkSource tenacity, ingenuity finally leads veteran with a disability to his dream career

Workforce Wednesday celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a post about “Ron,” a combat veteran with a disability. Over the course of four years, Ron worked with Seth Maier, a veterans-employment specialist at WorkSource Spokane. After many attempts at school and jobs, persistence finally pays off when Ron lands a job with an orthotics and prosthetics company.

Disability Employment Awareness Month is an opportunity to showcase an often overlooked workforce with a wealth of talent, as well as the employers who hire them.

“Employers benefit from hiring employees with diverse abilities,” said Mandeep Kaundal, chairman of the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues & Employment. “It drives innovation.”

And now we present today’s Power of a Job story: Seth Maier of WorkSource Spokane.

Hello. I’m a Disabled Veteran Outreach Program case manager at WorkSource Spokane. People in my position are stationed in most of the WorkSource offices in Washington state and also in most of the American Job Centers across the United States.

Today I want to tell you a story about an Army veteran I started working with in 2014. “Ron” had some significant injuries that required him to use a cane. He had a hard time finding a direction. He had this yo-yo pattern of pursuing education, getting a job and then going back to school. He worked as a medical technician and then got burnt out. Then he pursued a fabrication job, but his injuries wouldn’t let him be successful, so he went back to school, then dropped out to get a security job.

He was burning through his education benefits and burning through his entitlement, and each time he returned to a job, it seemed like he was getting less and less pay. So when he came back to me, he was really unsure about what direction to take.

We offered some skills assessments, and it pointed to him to the health sciences field. I also knew that he had a talent in ceramics. He had built these beautiful water pitchers on a ceramics wheel, so I knew he had a very sensitive touch, as well as a fabrication and engineering background. I knew about an orthotics and prosthetics program at our local community college, and I thought it would be a good fit.

I arranged for him to have a visit there, a tour of the facility and to learn about the program. He got very excited and he enrolled. He applied for the Veterans Administration’s vocational rehabilitation program, they approved him, and he was off! This past July, he finished the program having only one last step to complete a 199-hour practicum before graduation.

We located a hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and arranged for him to get an online informational interview. During the interview, we couldn’t see them or hear them, but the system said we were connected. Ron was getting really stressed and verbalized how important this opportunity was for him, and that he didn’t want to mess it up. He was getting really nervous, and then all of a sudden, his cellphone rang and it was the hospital saying, “Hey, we can hear you and see you just fine!” So it really broke the ice and helped to humanize him. It allowed him to drop his ego and to be really honest about what he wanted.

Ron was from Michigan, and this job was an opportunity for him to go home. The hospital was so impressed, they immediately followed up with a formal interview and ended up creating a position for him. Not only was he able to complete his practicum, but he also got a paid position. They arranged that, as soon as he got his certification, his pay would immediately go up.

This hospital was really the point of the spear in orthotics and prosthetics across the nation, so Ron was really excited about this opportunity. The hospital offered a $2,000 reimbursement for his relocation expenses. We got him over there using the Hilton Honors Program, which allowed him to be housed in a hotel for the first three days. He was able to get temporary housing, while another organization helped him rent an apartment.

This is just an awesome story. At WorkSource, we develop long-term relationships with some of our customers. We see them over the years, building rapport and friendships. We want the best for the person we’re serving. It doesn’t matter if it takes years; our customers know that if they need to get a better job, they can always come back. We’re available for them. This is just an exceptional example of a long-term relationship with a combat veteran who needed help reaching his employment goals.

As partners in Washington’s WorkSource system and the American Job Center Network, the Employment Security Department helps people – unemployed or not – find new jobs and learn new skills. We help them experience the life-changing Power of a Job. We also work with businesses to help them find employees because we know they are Powered by Jobs.

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