Every week, Nick Sulkoske heads to work at Train Installations, a Woodstock-based company that creates model train railroads for homes and businesses. Like most people, Nick wants to work. But finding a job was a bit more challenging for this young man, who has developmental disabilities that make him socially awkward and nonverbal. Fortunately, a local non-profit – All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD) – stepped in to help him make the employment connection.
Finding a job is often difficult, but for those with developmental disabilities it can be nearly impossible. Most people with disabilities have had to overcome society’s focus on their limitations instead of their strengths.
In Georgia, unemployment hovers around five percent, but it’s closer to 80 percent for people with disabilities. AADD is working to improve the unemployment rate for those with developmental disabilities – matching Georgians with disabilities with employers in the community through the “HireAbility” program.
Nick developed encephalopathy as a toddler. The Holly Springs resident is somewhat nonverbal and has limited social skills. But he’s very talented in other ways, with strong piano and computer skills.
And he loves trains. He really loves trains!
At Train Installations, the 20-year old Cherokee County resident is a photo archivist, responsible for scanning and cataloging thousands of photo negatives and prints.
AADD helped Nick blend his love of trains with employment. Michael Adair, Nick’s AADD Employment Specialist, participated in his job search and training, ensuring that he would have a complete understanding of the job. He also worked with company owner Dave Bennett about the accommodations he would need to succeed.
“Nick is an incredible, hard-working employee,” Bennett said. “I was so happy to be able to have someone with a love of trains to help my company.”
“I can attest to the fact that Nick looks forward to working every week. He is always prepared, ready and enthusiastic. He takes great pride in doing a good job for his employer, by seeing to every detail as a photo archivist,” said Nick’s mother, Shelly Sulkoske.
Studies have shown the benefits of hiring people with developmental disabilities. Employers report a lower turnover rate, lower rates of absenteeism, great job loyalty, higher employee morale and great customer satisfaction.
AADD prides itself on taking the time to find the correct job for Georgian’s with developmental disabilities. Employment specialists work with each client to find a job that is the correct fit for them.
“Throughout Georgia, employers willing to give these unconventional employees an opportunity have already begun to demonstrate that this group of motivated workers has untapped potential,” said Nathan Heald, employment manager for AADD. “By focusing on their abilities, not their disabilities, we can promote workplace success for everyone.”
By Tosha Connors, All About Developmental Disabilities