Like many young adults, Patrick McKeown found job hunting to be a difficult process. He was eager to work and looked forward to the personal satisfaction that a steady job could provide. Adding to the typical challenges confronting any 20-something job seeker, Patrick has a developmental disability.
In the fall of 2011, Patrick decided to take part in Alternatives’ Employment Academy – an initiative developed by Alternatives in collaboration with Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) in Worcester. The Academy, which meets on the QCC campus, was designed to help breakdown some of the specific barriers to employment faced by individuals with disabilities. At the Academy, Patrick improved his interviewing skills and got real world job experience through a job shadowing opportunity at the Wal-Mart in West Boylston.
Not long after attending the Academy, Patrick found the job he was looking for at BJ’s in Northborough. He works four days a week as part of a crew that helps put returns away and provides general store help. Patrick credits his experience at the Academy with helping him become both a better candidate for the position and a better employee. “I picked up a lot of good job hunting skills at the Academy,” he says, “For example: I learned what’s appropriate to wear at an interview and also to go the day before if you don’t know where the interview place is.” It’s clear that BJ’s recognizes that people with disabilities can be valuable employees. In describing Patrick, Katie Kowalczyk, his supervisor at BJ’s says: “He always wants to help out and is always smiling. He’s an absolute joy to work with.”