One of the most important aspects of adult life can be finding a rewarding career that provides the opportunity to contribute, learn, and grow personally and professionally. At College Living Experience (CLE), we are committed to developing and advancing the capabilities of individuals with learning differences, while at the same time educating employers on the benefits of hiring this often-overlooked population. Over the last three years, our team has seen a significant increase in young adults choosing to pursue a career rather than a college degree. As a result, our focus on preparing these young adults to experience success in the workplace has become a top priority.
CLE employment partner, Mike Russo, runs a rapidly growing small business in Florida, 3DMagine. Mike has been hiring young adults, including students with disabilities for years. Mike appreciates the reliability and work ethic of the individuals he has hired saying, “They are passionate about doing a good job and getting it right.” He explained that all the employees he hires with disabilities are respected by their coworkers, and are equals on his team. Currently, Mike employs two College Living Experience (CLE) students and has each managing projects like social media, 3D printing, scanning, and technology summer camps.
When the students received their first paycheck, Mike remembered seeing their faces light up with a sense of accomplishment and excitement. As he reflected on each student’s contributions he explained, “They are trusted workers that I have representing our company on important client projects.” Mike discussed a recent large banking client that called to report how impressed they have been with the student’s work. Now that same client is considering extending the project which is a huge win for his company and a great reflection on the talent he has hired. “The students that come to me from CLE are extraordinary. They have gifts that I enjoy helping them develop,” Mike remarked.
We asked Pablo, a CLE student, to describe his experience working for 3DMagine. He enthusiastically replied, “I would never ever sacrifice this job for anything. No matter what you would give me. I love working with these guys.”
Working with the team at 3DMagine has been a pivotal part of Pablo’s overall growth. He appreciates how his job and CLE supports have been influential in his life including handling finances and other adult responsibilities. Pablo explained, “I am learning to be responsible for my own money, like what to do and what not to do with it. That is something I needed help with.”
Stephanie Martin, President of College Living Experience, has been a strong advocate employment for those with all types of disabilities. Her long career working with students with varying disabilities has made her a witness to all that can be achieved. As a lifelong educator, she enjoys coaching businesses on the benefits this hiring practice has on company culture, financials, and image. However, in the end, Stephanie said quite frankly, “It is simply the right thing to do.”