Photo Caption: Yusef Ewais, Executive Vice President of Human Resources for AP Emissions Technologies, catches up with employees on the factory floor.
It can be a challenge to obtain competitive integrated employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. At the same time, many employers are struggling to fill vacant positions.
A Goldsboro company specializing in automotive manufacturing of exhaust and emissions products has found a way to close the gap between job seekers and their hiring needs.
“It's a great opportunity for all parties when both benefit,” said Executive Vice President of Human Resources for AP Emissions Technologies Yusef Ewais. “We’re focused on hiring practices that result in a diverse workforce – a workforce that reflects our community. With this focus, we get great, loyal, trustworthy, hardworking employees who are happy to have an opportunity to provide for their families and the community.”
AP Emissions Technologies manufactures a complete line of automotive, light truck, and heavy-duty exhaust, and emissions products. Founded in 1927, their roots reach back to the very beginnings of the automotive exhaust system business. Today, their products are sold at a variety of retailers including Auto Zone, NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly and through an aftermarket wholesale network of large distributors both domestically and internationally. It’s an important industry that requires a skilled workforce comprised today of more than 500 employees in the Goldsboro facility, a number that rises to more than 850 across all its companies.
For more than a decade Ewais has partnered with NCDHHS to lend his support to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) and to provide a path to employment for the division’s clients. Over the years, Ewais’ employers have hired more than 100 DVRS clients.
Ewais and his HR team drive the company’s performance in recruitment and employee relations, which emphasizes the importance of finding the right people for the right job.
“I’ve never known any other way to think or treat people, I’m just wired that way. I moved to the U.S. when I was seven years old, and I quickly learned that we take opportunities for granted; some people do not get these opportunities because of the way they look, think or speak,” he said. “When HR professionals can finally sit in an interview, they have two- or three minutes max to determine whether this individual may be a good fit for their organization. Most companies approach hiring as just a way to fill a spot, rather than truly taking the time to consider whether the candidate would be a good fit for the organization or vice versa.”
At AP Emissions they approach hiring with a different mindset. The HR team spends time getting to know prospective employees, giving them a chance to also get to know the company and its culture. Job seekers get to tour the factory floor to learn about the opportunities available. From there the job interview shifts to feel more like a conversation where the applicants get the chance to talk about where they think their skills and talents would be the best fit at AP Emissions. It’s a method that’s working and providing results.
“Currently, we’re approximately 98 percent staffed, while other companies in our community are still struggling with staffing,” Ewais said. “We’re in the business of retention. We want our team members to work where they feel comfortable and impactful – where it’s a great fit for both parties.”
Ewais began working with DVRS Specialist Kristy Brinson in 2013. He conducted workshops to help with interviews and resume writing, and began hiring candidates.
“Employers that are open to a variety of workforces will easily overcome hiring hurdles due to a larger pool of applicants from all walks of life,” Ewais said. “When an applicant meets most of the criteria but doesn’t check all the boxes, that individual can still be a great asset to our organization. Unfortunately, not everyone hiring sees it that way. It’s simple: we look for candidates who want to work. If they have the right attitude, everything else we can teach or figure out.”
To find out how your company can benefit from hiring DVRS clients and to see how Inclusion Works, go the the NCDHHS website.