SMART Options is a supported employment agency that works with a variety of different workplaces and employers in Kamloops to support individuals with diverse abilities to find meaningful paid employment!
We wanted to share Koltons employment success story and journey to becoming a full-time carpentry assistant at NRB Modular Solutions. He has worked hard to get where he is and his story deserves to be shared! Together SMART Options and Kolton connected with NRB Modular Solutions, which led to him being hired as a full-time carpentry assistant. NRB Modular Solutions is a Kamloops business that builds modular solutions, such as portable schools, kiosks, shelters, affordable homes, healthcare and hospitality infrastructure and more. Since Kolton has been employed at NRB Modular Solutions, he has made new friendships, and gained confidence in not only working with power tools but in himself as well. Meet Kolton! Kolton is a young adult who is committed to gaining experience in the workforce. When you first meet Kolton, he can be a bit reserved, but if you give him a chance, he’ll be sure to make you laugh! He is kind, dedicated, and enjoys learning about different tools. Kolton is on the autism spectrum and part of SMART Options supported employment program.
Kolton began his journey with SMART Options back in 2019. He was enrolled in the Education and Skills Training Program (ESTR) at Thompson Rivers University. At that time, Kolton was interested in seasonal employment because it worked well with his school schedule. SMART Options supported him to get a seasonal position at The Dunes Golf Course, where he was part of their green team for two seasons. This was a good job match that fit his schedule and employment goals at the time. When Kolton finished school he wanted something that was more permanent and consistent.
As Kolton’s employment goals changed, his SMART Options job coach adjusted his job search and together they began exploring other options. Koltons job interests included, working with tools, building, and any hands-on type of work. During his free time Kolton is very involved in sports and enjoys being part of a team. This was another important factor that his job coach considered when starting his job search.
Elise Gatien, Koltons SMART Options job coach, reached out to NRB Modular Solutions to inquire about employee requirements. She learned that NRB hires full-time employees (40 hours a week) and employees must be willing to work early mornings. After connecting with Elise and learning about our program, NRB was open to inclusive hiring if SMART Options had a job seeker that fit their needs. Elise immediately thought of Kolton and was able to set up an interview. SMART Options facilitated the interview process, by sharing strategies for inclusive interviewing with NRB and requesting an interview accommodation. The interviewer being prepared and aware of some common struggles such as, differences in eye contact and allowing processing time after asking questions, allowed them to keep and open mind and focus on Koltons answers to the questions and his hands on learning.
NRB was willing to accommodate the interview process by providing SMART Options with the interview questions beforehand. Kolton and Elise used these questions to practice and prepare for the interview. Knowing what to expect from the interview and having time to prepare, allowed Kolton to feel confident and gave him the opportunity to answer each question thoughtfully. The typical interview process has been a barrier for Kolton in the past. This small accommodation made a huge impact on how Kolton was able to present himself and allowed NRB to get to know the real Kolton rather than just his disability.
Autistic people, as well as individuals with other developmental disabilities, often face barriers when it comes to getting a job. Standard recruitment and interview procedures can inadvertently create barriers and lead to discrimination and negative stereotyping. Many people on the autism spectrum have social communication differences that impact their ability to ‘perform’ in traditional interviews. Being aware of adaptation strategies and hiring tips for people with diverse abilities can help employers make more informed hiring decisions.
Some strategies include avoiding abstract language, asking specific questions related to the job rather than general questions/small talk, letting the person know it is okay to take their time and think about their answers, allow for long pauses so the person can process the question and articulate a response, being okay with differences in eye contact, and make the interview process more transparent and less stressful by providing the interview questions beforehand and details about the interview. These adjustments can help overcome the job interview barrier many individuals face.
Koltons Story: Gaining Confidence and New Skills, While Loving Where You Work
With help from SMART Options, Kolton is successfully employed at NRB Modular Solutions as a Carpentry Assistant.
In June 2022, Kolton was offered a full time position at NRB as a carpentry assistant and has been working full time ever since! The above video shows behind the scenes of Koltons employment success at NRB. “This job has been really good because it gets me motivated everyday in the morning, and I'm very excited to come to work. I'd like to stay here for as long as I can.” -Kolton As a carpentry assistant, some of Koltons job tasks include: Measuring, cutting, and assembling materials such as wood, drywall and plastic. The use of power tools such as sawzall, skill saw, chop saw, table saw, drills, and air tools. Not only is Kolton proud of himself, but his family is overjoyed by his achievement and supports his goals and dreams 100%.
“A job is the most important factor in him establishing his independence in Kamloops and he has really found a good fit. -Carla (Koltons Mom) “We never thought all of this would be possible for him, I tell people what he is doing and they are just so surprised at how far he has come. It just shows what determination and tremendous support can do.” - Carla (Koltons Mom) While NRB was apprehensive at first, due to the use of power tools, and general safety in a construction zone, they quickly learned that Kolten took safety seriously. - “We have had zero issues and the employee has been good at staying on task and using power tools safely,” said hiring manager and foreman Stuart Jameson. Stuart told SMART Options that he has seen a positive change in his team. He noticed that the inclusive hiring process has boosted team morale and has encouraged his team to model a positive inclusive work environment. “I would encourage any employer to consider teaming up with SMART Options to hire inclusively, I can see the rest of my team has stepped up to work with and help this individual. It has really increased teamwork and morale.” - Stuart Jameson Safety on the Job- A Common Employer Concern Safety is a common employer concern when hiring people with disabilities, as some employers fear a higher risk of accidents. However, workers with disabilities are often more aware, not less, of safety issues in the workplace! Studies show that workers with disabilities have average or better safety records and have fewer disabling injuries than the average employee exposed to the same hazards! SMART Options helps to address any employer concerns so businesses can feel confident in the benefits of inclusive hiring. Now that NRB Modular Solutions has seen first hand how safety conscious Kolton has been, it has opened the door for another SMART Options Job Seeker to be hired.
At NRB it is a requirement that all staff undergo extensive safety training. The new hires must go through 6 weeks of paid training before becoming an official employee. NRB was willing to accommodate for one-on-one safety training with Kolton. During Koltons training, he learned how to safely operate power tools in great detail and some basic first aid. Kolton successfully completed his training and began his journey working as a carpentry assistant.
SMART Options currently has many workers placed in safety conscious environments and we only have positive things to say about these positions. When job seekers are in positions where they learn new things, are challenged, and accomplish tasks they or others may never have thought they could, their confidence soars, and we love to see that!
Read more of our success stories here!
Kamloops Businesses Interested in Inclusive Hiring?
Inclusive hiring provides a positive corporate image. People want to feel good about the places they support! Being seen as a socially-aware business creates a positive work environment and is something that is valued by both employees and customers.
In fact, 87% of consumers prefer to support companies that hire people with disabilities!
So don't wait! Lets connect now! If you have been thinking about inclusive hiring, and diversifying your workplace, we are here, and happy to help you! Our staff provides informational interviews or a small presentation about our supported employment services to Kamloops Employers, in addition, all our services are free of charge!
“If other employers were thinking or are thinking about using SMART Options to recruit some of their staff, I would definitely give them a recommendation; right from figuring out what we needed, to finding somebody that would fit that role, to the interview process and on-boarding process and their ongoing support afterwards, I’m very confident in their work and what they bring to the table”
Plant Manager, NRB Modular Solutions - Jordan Kowalczyk
Thank you Jordon for your kind words about Kolton and our supported employment services and thank you to the NRB modular solutions team for your natural support in assisting Kolton throughout his carpentry journey!
You can visit Dexterra Group for NRBs open job postings!