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Project Hire pairs workers with disabilities with employers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Project Hire pairs workers with disabilities with employers

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SHELBURNE, Vt. -

Finding a full time job is tough and if you're living with a disability it's even more difficult. But WCAX News found there's help out there and they are always looking for new clients.

David Frye has lots of experience in food services, but five years ago he needed help finding a new job.

"I had difficulties in the last job that I had. My mother decided to look into Howard services and hooked me up with Project HIRE," he said. Frye now works as a kitchen assistant.

Project HIRE is a program that got its start as our society made a shift to a more community-centered focus for people with mental disabilities.

"Supported employment really came out in the early 80s by offering opportunities to help people connect with employers and get hired outside of sheltered employment into traditional jobs," said Project HIRE Program Manager Karen Hussey. 

Sheltered workshops were places where people with disabilities were warehoused and given simple tasks. And until 2002, they were one of the only work options for people with disabilities. However, Project HIRE set out to change that.

The national unemployment average in the United states stands at 6.7 percent. But the unemployement rate among people with all types of disabilities is much higher, at 12.8 percent.

"Sometimes it's hard for a person with disabilities to write up a resume," said Frye.

"On one side we're helping individuals with disabilities discover their interests and talents. So, when we partner with businesses and know what their needs are we can make the right match," said Hussey.

Frye's match was in the kitchen at Wake Robin Retirement Community.

"The expectations with Dave and myself were pretty much mapped out so there was an ability for us to throw Dave right into the mix of it," said Tim Pratt, the executive chef at Wake Robin. 

Five years later, Frye has continued to take on more responsibilities - from dishes, to prep work, to actual cooking.

Project HIRE is currently helping 180 people like Frye find work in Vermont at more than 100 different businesses. Most of the positions are part time. Project HIRE is a lot like a temp agency except the relationship doesn't end when they place someone in the job. They continually check to make sure the relationship is working for the new employee and the staff.

"We will go with them on their first day of employment and help them get familiar with the site and become familiar with work culture and connect with their co-workers," Hussey said. 

Frye has some advice for businesses looking to work with the program: "Give people with disabilities a chance. Do not categorize us that we have a disability to do things."

Project HIRE staff say they'll know they've found success when they've worked themselves out of a job.

If you or your business is interested in working with the program, call 802-488-6500.

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