ABERDEEN, Md. (October 15, 2018)— The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region (The Arc NCR) is
proudly celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) during October
as the organization continues to educate the business community about its employment
supports to adults with differing abilities (intellectual and developmental disabilities). The
purpose of NDEAM is to raise awareness for disability employment issues and celebrate the
many and varied contributions of America’s workers with differing abilities. This year’s theme
is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All,” and one of The Arc NCR’s employment partners,
Next Generation Mechanic, proves empowering passionate workers of all abilities is mutually beneficial to both business and employee.
Next Generation Mechanic’s partnership with The Arc NCR began in 2015 to service the organization’s fleet of vehicles providing transportation for the more than 270 individuals supported by the nonprofit. The Harford County garage soon learned The Arc NCR was actively breaking the stereotype that people with differing abilities cannot work, and when an opportunity arose for an apprenticeship, decided to interview candidates for the position.
After multiple interviews, shop owner Anastasios Dernelakis (“A.D.”) met Michael. Following graduation from Joppatowne High School, Michael began to pursue his dream job of becoming an auto mechanic. His passion for mechanics impressed Dernelakis.
“Michael was confident, knowledgeable and seemed to be eager to continue learning new skills,” says Dernelakis. “We immediately knew we wanted to give him an opportunity to work at the shop.”
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Michael loves his job and looks forward to work every day.
Now employed through Next Generation Mechanic for more than a year and a half, Michael has learned a variety of skills including balancing tires, assisting with vehicle inspections, oil changes and brakes system maintenance. Dernelakis says in return, the shop now has a new hard worker and friend.
The auto shop’s willingness to explore an employment relationship through The Arc NCR is a small piece of a much larger challenge – according to the FINDS Survey conducted by The Arc of the United States, out of 5,000 respondents, only 15 percent reported that their family member with an intellectual and/or developmental disability was employed. The Arc supports the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy’s national movement called “Employment First,” a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens, including individuals with significant disabilities, are capable of full
participation in integrated employment and community life. On average, workers with disabilities face significant gaps in pay and compensation, compared to workers with no disability.
With more than 200 individuals employed in northern Maryland in partnership with more than 90 employers, The Arc NCR is actively working to narrow those gaps and prove inclusive employment creates a better workplace culture. The nonprofit’s longest-employed individual, Jack, has worked at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office for more than 28 years.
What does the future hold? For Michael, as a result of his apprenticeship, he is making plans to become an electrical engineer to continue in the auto mechanic profession. For The Arc NCR, raising disability employment awareness goes far beyond NDEAM – the nonprofit pledges that anyone that can and wants to work will work. The organization provides support in seeking and maintaining employment through job development, job coaching with follow-along supports, case management and transportation. For more information, contact Joseph Hughes, Director of Employment Services, at 410-836-7177 x312 or visit arcncr.org.