Four-days-a-week, from 7-11 a.m., 60-year-old Michael Allen can be found at work at The University of Arizona’s (UofA) Downtown Phoenix campus. He navigates a bus and then a train to get to there, and it’s a routine that he looks forward to—and enjoys.
After being out of work for more than a year, he is grateful for the opportunity, as well as the support he found in looking for and training for a job.
Michael, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), found the position as part of Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center’s (SARRC) Employment Services program.
Through the program, SARRC helps build job skills in those diagnosed with ASD via vocational assessments, social and adaptive skills training, and work opportunities and internships. SARRC also partners with local and national employers to increase employment opportunities for those of all ages (beginning at age 16) with ASD through its Employment Partners program.
Pride in a Job Well Done
Although he works at a UofA location, Michael is actually employed though EDGE Building Services, which is the company that is contracted to be on campus. This past May marked Michael’s one-year anniversary on the job.
At UofA, Michael’s role is to help keep the buildings clean both inside and out, handling tasks such as emptying garbage, using a dust mop, and wiping railings and tables.
“I have to help keep the place clean,” he explains. “They’ve got the garbage outside. That’s all three buildings. I clean the office building railing with a wet rag. I clean the outside tables for the students with a spray bottle. I clean the buildings with a dust mop and clean up the leaves that fall with a dustpan.”
He enjoys the work, and takes pride in doing his best. He also enjoys, “Meeting people… the students… and having something to do.”
Michael has worked since he was 15, beginning as a paperboy. Prior to moving to Arizona 2.5-years-ago, he lived in Dallas, Texas, where he worked as a clerk in a supermarket. Previous employment included janitorial and courtesy clerk roles.
When Michael moved to Arizona, he found himself out of work for the first time—which is when his mom found the SARRC program.
Employment Through Employment Partners
SARRC’s Employment Partners program exists for just that reason. By partnering with businesses in the community to create job opportunities, and providing its clients training via job coaches, the program seeks to help those with ASD find meaningful employment, while helping businesses fill roles with qualified candidates.
“Being a locally-owned and -operated company, EDGE is deeply committed to improving the lives of those in the surrounding community. We believe in SARRC’s mission and as an Employment Partner, are invested in helping them achieve their goals,” says Gina Rouban, general manager at EDGE. “We knew partnering with SARRC would be a gratifying experience; however, the benefits to our organization—both on a professional and personal level—have far exceeded what we ever could have imagined.”
Through SARRC, Michael was provided with a job coach, who attended the interview with EDGE with him. Once Michael was offered the job, the coach helped teach him the skills he would need on the job, from how to tie bags to pick up the garbage, to how to ask for more work supplies when he’s running low, to how to navigate asking for vacation days.
“The level of communication we’ve had with SARRC has been phenomenal from the get-go. Whether it was during the candidate-matching/on-boarding/training stage or a routine inquiry/request, each and every SARRC team member has and continues to go above and beyond to ensure seamless, top-notch support,” Gina says.
A Perfect Match
Michael shares that he hopes to stay in the position for a long time.
“So far I like staying there,” he says. “And it’s a great job opportunity.”
EDGE hopes he stays, too.
“Michael is an outstanding employee!” says Gina. “Not only is he a quick study, extremely dedicated and reliable—his strong communication skills, positive attitude and willingness to tackle one-off assignments have earned him the respect of his EDGE management, peers and UofA employees alike. Michael celebrated his 1stanniversary with EDGE in May 2018 and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have him.”
For more information about SARRC’s Employment Services, click here.
For more information about becoming an Employment Partner, click here.
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