Building and supporting a strong and inclusive workforce is central to the NCDHHS' mission and one of its strategic goals. For more than a decade, the state has worked to support individuals with disabilities as they strive for meaningful work and independence through programs offering Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE).
CIE is all about making sure that people with disabilities can obtain employment where they can earn at least minimum wage while working in the public alongside people without disabilities. It’s about equal opportunity. CIE prioritizes opportunities where people with disabilities can earn the same income, workplace benefits and opportunities as other employees doing the same job.
Kelly Gilliam's Success Story
When Kelly Gilliam walked through the doors at WorkSource West in Morganton, he knew he wanted help to land a good job. He wasn’t entirely sure which skills he’d need, or which career would be right for him, but his sister had recommended that he sign up for their job skills training program.
“She told me I should check it out because it helps people find a job – and it’s hard to find one,” he said. “I wanted to support myself. I wanted to be on my own and be independent.”
NCDHHS’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) administers two Community Rehabilitation Programs that offer a range of employment-related support services. WorkSource East, in Goldsboro, and WorkSource West, in Morganton, both provide training programs to Vocational Rehabilitation consumers with specialized needs that range from cognitive and autism, to psychosocial, physical and hearing loss.
About three months ago Gilliam took his sister’s advice and began WorkSource West’s Vocational Skills Training program. He enrolled in the Housekeeping Program, completed the two-month curriculum and was hired straight away by Dietary Manager Dianne Anthony, of Grace Heights Health & Rehabilitation in Morganton.
Gilliam flourished in the program. “He did great,” said P.J. Xiong of North Carolina’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. “He learned all of the skills – he’s a really hard worker.”
The Housekeeping Program curriculum includes chemical safety, workplace safety and cleaning techniques. The students learn about dress codes and the kind of professional expectations that will be required on the job. It’s a curriculum that lends itself to a variety of job opportunities. It also includes field trips to job locations so the students can become familiar with their work options.
Upon completion of the program, Gilliam decided to seek employment in food services. “I saw the dietary aide job at the nursing home,” he said. "My dad was in the nursing home when he passed away, and I wanted to help.”
Gilliam works the dinner shift preparing the residents’ trays and desserts. After the dinner service, he washes dishes and helps clean up the kitchen. He also keeps an eye on the residents’ meal tickets to make sure that the meals they’re served are in alignment with their particular dietary requirements, such as low-salt. He loves his job here – he’s so appreciative,” said Dietary Manager Dianne Anthony, of Grace Heights Health & Rehabilitation in Morganton. “He wants to move up and in two weeks I’ll start training him to become a cook.”
Gilliam is thriving in his new role and says Anthony’s a great boss. “I have really nice coworkers,” Gilliam said. “Diane’s fun to work for – she makes jokes and if anyone needs help, she gives them the training they need.”
Anthony started partnering with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 2017. Over the years she’s hired several VR interns and over the years she’s hired 10 as employees. "We have four employees right now who were WorkSource West clients,” Anthony said. “They make up almost half of my team and I also have two interns that I plan to offer full-time jobs when they finish their internships.”
Not only has she worked closely with the hiring and training of VR consumers, but she’s also participated in employer panels, provided mock interviews and provided tours for consumers interested in working in dietary or other areas at Grace Heights. “They have been a blessing to me – we have been hiring their clients for the past six to eight years, and we’ve had lots of success stories,” Anthony said. “We are so thankful to VR for what they do for us. If you want to see dedicated people, you can’t do any better than the folks at VR.”
For more information on the services offered through NCDHHS’ Community Rehabilitation Programs, go to the NCDHHS website.