King County’s commitment to supported employment started in 1990 when the King County Council created an initiative to provide paid, competitive employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities into integrated work settings in response to the issue of employment inequality.
It is their goal to see both our employees and those they serve have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. The supported employment initiative gives King County the ability to meet this goal by including an untapped motivated workforce as well as streamline our work to be more efficient.
King County has more than 14,000 employees providing Regional services to our communities. Employees like Dwight, help to tame Marymore Park’s acres of grass and trees. His manager, Andrew Boland, Parks Operations for Department of Natural Resources & Parks says, “His work ethic is tremendous, he actually makes people on our crew want to be better at what they do. He pushes us and comes in with a lot of energy, positive attitude, and it’s what we need. He is a spark for a whole crew here.”
Dwight is a supported employee. According to Christian Davidson, Supported Employment Program, “Supported employment is a county program that helps connect individuals with developmental disabilities to county jobs. Its called supported employment because job candidates have the support of a job coach to help them find a job, go through the onboarding and training process, as well as maintain their employment here at King County.”
Inside King County’s Environmental lab, Jodeen has been working with a microbiologist for more than a decade. Erik Thompson, Microbiologist with Environmental Labs says, “She does a lot of tasks, a lot of essential tasks in the laboratory that a lot of that other folks will have in the laboratory would have to pick up if she wasn’t doing them.”
“Their nice people I work with, family, and they help me a lot,” says Jodeen.
Thompson states, “She’s very dependable and reliable she has a positive attitude. She’s always here at work ahead of her time so she’s ready to go.”
Jodeen’s job coach, Barbara Broomfield, is another resource for her and her employer, “I’m a liaison of communication if they’re having trouble on the job or have questions that there sure how to ask your supervisor that the job coach can come in and work with.”
King County’s downtown Courthouse, Brooke is the mail clerk for the County Council. According to Council Administrative Officer, Janine Weihe, “Brooke brings a lot of consistency to the workgroup. She does the mail, she stalks the supply rooms, she stalks all the printers, and so throughout the day folks don’t have to try to look for things…where is everything? why is the printer not working? Brooke takes care of all that for us.” Brooke says, “It makes me happy that I am able to help other people and that the council members appreciate what I do for them.”
Brooke still checks in with her job coach. Janine says, “We get together with her (job coach) every six months and sit down and go over goals for Brooke for her performance evaluation, so sitting down for job coach and then sitting down with me she knows that she supported in multiple ways.”
According to Dave Upthegrove, Councilmember, “Having her working environment with the elected officials is really powerful because we see every day what people with developmental disabilities can accomplish and contribute”
Imagine the Records Department inside the adult detention center. According to Andrew Williams, Records and Information System Manager, “I think we’ve got close to 900 employees so it’s all of their records all of our inmate records all of our operational records that’s a lot.”
Tang is the file Clerk, he says, “and it is fun to come to work and my coworkers are supportive, nice, funny and helpful. Tang is great he is a very happy person, he is a very energetic person. I’m a hard working guy and I love to work.”
According to William Hayes, Director of Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, “It’s always nice to see that somebody comes to work and enjoys work. In Corrections, it can be challenging at times because of the atmosphere that we work in; so I think it’s one of those things that kind of brings a brightness to the day when Tang’s around.”
Williams says, “His coworkers have really enjoyed having him here. Our office environment has changed its become more collaborative with Tang.”
Weihe says, “I would definitely recommend it, throughout my career at King County I have had multiple supported employees and I’ve always had a great experience.”
According to Scott Waite, Job Coach, “People with disabilities become more than an abstract so when somebody says this person has Autism or Down syndrome it doesn’t really mean a lot to somebody unless they have personal experience.”
Boland shares, “Its eye-opening, it shows you that everybody deserves an opportunity and everybody has something to offer.”
According to Dow Constantine, King County Executive, “I encourage all King County departments to look at their recruitment plans and see how supported employment positions can meet their business needs and equity and social justice goals.”