The slogan touted by Lippert Components is one we can all get behind: “Everyone matters.”
And when Lippert says “everyone,” they mean everyone — including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Lippert is just one of many employers in the community that has recognized that people with disabilities can make great additions to the workplace.
“We realize that everybody can add value if you find a good fit for them,” said Scott Mantyla, general manager of the Lippert plant in South Bend. “There are opportunities for all abilities.”
Lippert is one of the newest companies ADEC has partnered with through community employment, a program that matches people with disabilities to open jobs in the area. ADEC served nearly 300 people with disabilities last year, helping them find and keep jobs at dozens of different businesses in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties.
With help from an Arc@Work grant, ADEC has also been hard at work establishing new relationships with local businesses and finding new opportunities for the people we serve.
Sara Howard, ADEC’s senior manager of community employment, hosted a series of four workshops to connect with employers and teach them about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
Scott Mantyla of Lippert heard about one of ADEC’s workshops through the newspaper and made it a point to attend the next one, where he connected with Howard. Since then, several ADEC clients have had the chance to try out employment in a manufacturing environment, and a few have even had the chance to shadow employees in Lippert’s human resources department.
ADEC client Jordan Wilson has been working at Lippert since January 2017, and Mantyla said he has been a breath of fresh air for the entire plant.
“He’s always got a smile on his face and they get excited to see him,” Mantyla said. “They know that he’s here to help them do their jobs more efficiently.”
Wilson has worked with ADEC for several years to learn job skills like professional communication and the importance of being on time.
His advice for others seeking employment? “Always keep trying hard. Never give up on your dreams.”
With unemployment rates dropping in Indiana to 3.6 percent — a 16-year low — filling open positions is becoming harder for more companies. But more businesses, like Lippert, are learning of an entire untapped labor pool: People with disabilities.
Scotty’s Brewhouse is another Michiana business that has started to embrace ADEC clients as valuable contributors to their team. Scott Wise, the founder of Scotty’s Brewhouse, has made a commitment to hiring people with disabilities and the chain aims to increase its percentage of employees with disabilities to 10 percent.
“These are all people that are capable and willing and want to work,” Wise said. “Why wouldn’t we give them an opportunity? Where other people might shut a door, we are going to open it.”
ADEC client Israel Thomas was the first person to be placed in a job at Scotty’s Mishawaka location through the effort, and General Manager Katie Malicki raves about the experience.
“It has been eye-opening to work with people like Israel,” Katie said. “I think employers want to put people with disabilities into a box and say, ‘They’re not going to be able to do that.’ People don’t recognize how much potential there is, but it really does open you up to a different applicant pool. We are excited that we have this other area to explore now.”
ADEC provides job coaching, training, assistance and support for employees at no cost to the employer. To learn more about ADEC’s employment services, visit adecinc.com/employment.