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Special Tree Support Services Help Voc Clients to 'Test the Waters'

As clients progress through Special Tree’s vocational training programs, many have developed strong work-readiness skills for community-based employment but haven’t put them to the test to make sure they’re ready to successfully get and keep a job.

That was the case with Paul, a vocational client since 2009, whose goal was to obtain a job as a dietary aide.  According to Special Tree Vocational Counselor Tara Forster, one way to gauge if clients like Paul are ready to work in the community is through natural support work experiences at Special Tree’s NeuroCare Center.  “With housekeeping, laundry, and kitchen service work available, it’s a win-win approach that allow clients to test out their work-readiness skills without a job coach,” she said.

Tara works closely with Vickie Lambert, Special Tree’s Manager of Hospitality Services and Safety (Support Services), to create job roles for clients where they work independently but are provided feedback from staff when necessary. 

“We love the clients working here,” said Vickie. “They’re a huge help to the dietary staff.”

For Paul, they created a dietary-aide type role in the NCC kitchen where he could sharpen his work skills as well as learn about working in a kitchen including food preparation, and the importance of sanitation.

“Thanks to his experience working in the NCC Kitchen, Paul felt confident in taking the leap from supported-employment to community-employment and quickly began the job-seeking process,” said Tara.  By the end of August, Paul was offered a full-time position as a dietary aide at a rehabilitation facility near his home.  Tara says he continues to report that the job is going great and that he’s feeling confident in his new role.

“We’re so grateful to Vickie and the Support Services staff for their willingness and support when working with our clients,” said Tara.  “We look forward to future opportunities and success stories."