Established in 1996, the Minnesota Employment Center (MEC) provides employment support for people who are Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. Over the past 20-plus years, we have supported hundreds of people successfully obtain and retain employment.
But what about the employer’s perspective? What is it like to partner with MEC for the ongoing support services critical to maintaining a strong relationship between employer and employee?
ARCH Language Network currently employs two people who are Deaf, both of whom have received services from MEC’s Sheila Ritter and Austin Beatty since their first days on the job.
Twila Erickson (at right in the photo with Susan Mahler), ARCH‘s director of operations, has been a key partner to help ensure a mutually satisfactory work experience.
Noting that ARCH uses an individualistic approach to hiring, Twila carefully determines the best fit within the company based on a person’s strengths and interests.
ARCH first hired an employee who is Deaf in 2014. That person quickly acclimated to her new work environment and voluntarily discontinued her follow-up support services with MEC shortly after starting.
Twila consulted with MEC to hire Susan Mahler who works in the Financial Services department. Susan has blossomed in her role throughout the two-plus years she has been with the company. MEC continues to offer assistance.
”It has been great to partner with MEC and I appreciate their support,” said Twila. “Each person brings unique attributes and barriers, and MEC has been there all along to provide resources and education about working with employees who are Deaf. I often call on Susan’s occupational communication specialist [OCS] to relay new information to her to help ensure she gets it quickly and has an opportunity to ask questions or seek clarification, if needed.”
Early on, an MEC OCS suggested one simple accommodation which made quite a difference to Susan. She was able to reposition her desk so that when people entered her office she could see them and not be startled. It was a seemingly small change, but one that had a profound impact on Susan’s comfort and ability to work well.
When ARCH recently rolled out new software for the work that Susan does, her OCS was there on the first day to assist in this big change and has been involved in extensive hands-on training since. Clear communication is vital in training, and MEC helps ARCH ensure that Susan gets the information she needs to continue doing her job with minimal interruptions.
Susan commented that it’s always helpful to have her OCS available in situations like these — to take notes while she is visually taking in the information (via an ASL interpreter), to support her with follow-up questions that may come up later, or to formulate an email with the right wording to express her questions or concerns.
“The biggest piece is knowing about and preparing for accommodations which may be needed,” said Twila. “After that, it’s really not any different than having an employee who isn’t Deaf.”
“ARCH has been a great company to partner with and has provided a hugely supportive workplace for its diverse employee pool,” Sheila noted.
“We know there are many people in the Deaf community who are ready and able to work – and there are many great employers like ARCH who are willing to hire people for interesting positions,” Austin added. “The OCSes at MEC are ready to assist in matching employers with great candidates.”
For more information, contact MEC at 651.265.2337; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out MEC’s website:MnEmploymentCenter.org.