Employment Supervisor Craig Brown supports individuals in competitive integrated employment (CIE). People in CIE receive support to navigate certain parts of their jobs, but are otherwise working at businesses in the community like anyone else, with the same wages and benefits. Craig reports, “It’s incredibly important for people with diverse abilities to work alongside everyone in the community. And it’s important for the community to be educated about neurodiversity. We all have our weaknesses, and we all have our strengths.”

When Jordan Weaver came to Aspire for employment support, Aspire Day Options employees and individuals already had a relationship with a church-sponsored community resource center. This organization proved to be a great match for Jordan. Craig helped Jordan prepare for his job interview and also sat in on the interview to make sure he understood all the job expectations. Jordan has been doing maintenance and helping set up for events at the center since June. He’s proud of his ability to contribute to his family’s household by putting gas in the car and groceries in the refrigerator.

Having a community is an important part of CIE. Craig had been working with a supported individual to fill out applications and interview, as well as general communication skills. When someone connected to the Aspire community mentioned there was an opening in the warehouse at a building supply company, Craig and the person he was supporting were ready to jump on the opportunity. The individual completed the application and interview process himself, with Craig in the background for support. He didn’t have experience in the specific line of work, but the employer is helping him learn the skills needed to do the job, like operating the forklift and using an industrial cleaning machine.

A job can be the key to independence. Craig provides support for a woman who lives on her own and works at a local market. She’s worked there for four years, doing everything from stocking shelves to checking bags and maintenance. Craig contacts her once a week and checks in onsite every month or two. She can ask for help when she needs it. For example, during a recent positive performance evaluation, there were a few things she wasn’t sure about, so Craig set up a meeting with her boss and the three of them walked through the issues together.

Keith Street is similarly independent at work. He’s been working for a private maintenance contractor at a military base for the last five years. Keith prefers to meet Craig at home, rather than at the worksite, so he can share his work concerns and accomplishments in private. At this point, Craig only needs to see him in person two or three times a year, with a weekly touch base.

Craig sees the significant impact of employment for the people he supports, “When you’re able to do a job satisfactorily, it builds your confidence and makes you a part of something. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning and impacts every aspect of life.” As for himself, after 30 years in human services, Craig does this work “because the people I support make my day better. I see an immediate response to the work I’m doing, and I have fun every day.”

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Talking Competitive Employment with Craig Brown