An Employment Perspective: Ableism
KATE FIALKOWSKI 0:01
Hi, this is Kate Fialkowski with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. This is being recorded for the Dischange 20 online symposium. We're currently discussing combating implicit bias and this segment is about employment perspectives. I'm delighted to have Shawn Garrison joining us. Shawn is the VP for finance and operations at New Way Air Bearings manufacturing company. Shawn, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today. Especially given well, all the world circumstances. Thank you.
SHAWN GARRISON 0:35
Hey! thank you, Kate.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 0:38
I was wondering if we could start by you telling us a little bit about yourself? Our having an Air Bearings manufacturing company, on the call might be sort of a new thing. So can you tell us about yourself and your company?
SHAWN GARRISON 0:55
Sure. So again, my name is SHAWN GARRISON. I'm Vice President of finance and operation For New Way Air Bearings, I've been with the company going on 12 years. I joined New Way coming out of the economic crisis in 2008. So this current manufacturing environment and world we live in and downturn is reminding me of that time.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:21
Yeah, I'm getting a little I'm getting a little reminder of that myself. I'm with you.
SHAWN GARRISON 1:26
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:26
SHAWN GARRISON 1:27
Yes. It's a very interesting world we're in and one of the main jobs is how to keep the company going and employees employed and, you know, as a team, we'll get through this.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:37
SHAWN GARRISON 1:39
We manufacturer air bearings for the medical field, semiconductor smart, smart panel, television makers. We're pretty diversified with our product range right now. So that is that that's helping us out through this difficult time.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 1:57
Yeah, it's always good to have a diversified portfolio. Yeah,
SHAWN GARRISON 2:01
It is. And we were we have been deemed as essential supplier for from the governor of Pennsylvania. So we support semiconductor and a lot of medical manufacturers. So during this downturn, were able to continue going and supply the rest of the manufacturing chain. So we're blessed it enabled to continue to, to support.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 2:23
Wow, that's awesome. We certainly appreciate you taking the time today. I know we're all working on usual hours and balancing things with our families as well. So,
SHAWN GARRISON 2:37
KATE FIALKOWSKI 2:37
You know, we really appreciate you taking the time for this conversation.
SHAWN GARRISON 2:40
No Problem, my pleasure, it's a good topic to have.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 2:43
So, um, you know, so you work with a manufacturing company, and, um, you know, when I did speak with you before, so we've we've spoken before this call, and it was very interesting to me. How did you get involved with anything related to disability and disability hiring as a topic.
SHAWN GARRISON 3:10
Well, I initially got involved. I sit on a couple of employer panels and one of the colleagues and my employer panel said, Hey, I'm, I'm running this program called ideas for you, and it's up in montgomery county and what we're doing is we're trying to transition students from high school into the workforce. And I was asked to serve on the panel and essentially interview students from local school districts, and I'm trying to them from the classroom into an interview and potentially get a job done.
So I volunteered my service for the day. And, you know, the day was probably one of the best days of working of my career. I immediately came back and brought it to my team and said, Hey, I just did something awesome and we need to get more involved in doing this type of service that was up in Montgomery county.
I came back and started to do some research with Delaware County was offering and Delaware County really did not have a career day for disabled students transitioning from the workforce. So that really led me into reaching out to more and more colleagues trying to say what does Delaware County and surrounding counties offer and how do we get this I guess this portion of our community into work and how do we transition them into a job and how do we how do we make an impact on on some someone's lives? So I owe a credit to the the ideas for you.
I mean, welcoming me through that day and allow me to sit and interview I think like 30 students over an eight hour period and essentially taking students taking their resume taking their skills and trying to transition them into hey, this is what you want to ask to an employer, this is how you're going to get a job. And, you know, just giving these type of students a sounding board and giving them a small glimpse of what it is sitting in front of an employer and, you know, interviewing questions or asking questions for their job. I mean, it was it was a very rewarding day. Yeah, we brought the program back to New Way. And we started getting involved with the local BCI and hiring some students for manufacturing.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 5:32
You know, when you told me this story, I just found it so interesting to think about because we do have a lot of people who never had an interview process, right. And that interview process can be your first roadblock to getting anywhere in your career if you can't successfully navigate an interview.
SHAWN GARRISON 5:58
That's correct. And I I think that it's it's a little frightening on both ends of the table, if you will. So for a student that obviously has some life challenges, putting them in front of someone that might not fully understand how to interview a person could be scary for them. And it's also scary for an employer like, Hey, I don't know, you know what to make of this? I'm not sure, you know, we've never really considered this before. So I think that the initial thing is that it opens communication on both ends, right? So it has a student that is looking for a job, affords them the time to ask questions, and it takes an employer such as myself, that has never interviewed or considered hiring students before it gives me a chance to, you know, refine my skills and, really understand the process. So I think it's a valuable experience on both ends and I think that if we all as employers "A" could be trained or could have a career day an interview day or just a conversation about how to do this everybody would be better off
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:15
Oh that's really interesting so you know a career day for the interviewers to learn to right?
SHAWN GARRISON 7:22
Yes, we have to learn
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:24
by directional education is really critical.
SHAWN GARRISON 7:27
Right? It's a two way street and it's a two way conversation.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:30
Yeah, that's pretty awesome. So do you have this going in Delaware County now?
SHAWN GARRISON 7:37
We do not. What we do is I speak with the local DCI you so out of this career day out of this ideas for you day. We reached out and we interviewed a couple students and we successfully hired one student.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 7:52
So you moved from so you move from doing this as an interview thing to really now being part of the full hiring process. Hmm.
SHAWN GARRISON 8:01
Yeah, so the interview was great. And coming back and saying to my team, hey, I did the interview. Now, we just want to continue to support the program. So we took that and I interviewed individuals, on my personal time on the company time. And then we eventually hired one of those students. They've been with us for four years. And subsequently, we reached out and we've interviewed and I hired another student. So they've been with us for about a year now. And we have two or three more students in positions that we're thinking about opening up.
So we want to be a leader in this area. So we were starting to expand our hiring and we speak to the DVRC about it, and we speak to the local communities and local companies about hey, this is this is how we can make a difference and this is how we can change who we are. And this is how we can make an impact in our local community.
So with the help of local communities and local companies. I speak to local school districts. Hey, how's your students? How many students do you have? What are they looking for? With that in partnership with the DCIU, we're starting to, we're starting to chisel away at the rock. Right? So it's, in the early stages, but we're gaining momentum and gaining traction and it's becoming worthwhile.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 9:23
That's terrific. Now I read on your website related to this, you you actually have a name of autism in manufacturing program?
SHAWN GARRISON 9:34
Right? Yes, we do.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 9:36
What can you tell us a little more about a little bit about that?
SHAWN GARRISON 9:40
Yeah, so so what we have decided to do was, again be elite in the local manufacturing area. So we've taken upon ourselves to reach out to local units, local support units, the MVA, DPI, IRCS, in the area, and discuss the challenges that we have. And I guess the misnomers that are out there the things that people don't understand about hiring this type of workforce. So we tried to educate ourselves because, you know, we're not the experts. I am not the expert. So I see education makes us all better eventually.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 10:27
Thank you. Now, you talked about this being sort of like an educational process, and that you are getting educated yourself too. So um, so is there something that surprises you about disability employment?
SHAWN GARRISON 10:47
I think the thing that surprises me is it's not that hard. Right. So so going in and wrapping your mind around how to put this particular area of the population to work is going to be an insurmountable task, right? I mean, how do you do it? How do you get involved with it? But at the end of the day, they're people, and they need a job. And we have jobs. So the thing, the thing that surprised me, it's, it's just a job.
It's just it's not that much more difficult than hiring someone else.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 11:28
SHAWN GARRISON 11:29
So in looking back, I wish we had, you know, taken advantages of this program, year one when I started at New Way, but I'm glad we took advantage of it in year eight, right, but we're still doing something but I think the thing the biggest surprise was that, yeah, it's really not that hard. There's not that many more hours of my day that I have to spend.
I'm in contact with the students, parents and I know the students parents and I talked to them throughout the week, and they Make sure everybody's doing okay and checking in if there's need that there's not needs. But I mean that that's that's minimal time on my end. I mean, and I enjoy doing that because I'm connecting with, you know, employees families, which I enjoy doing.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 12:16
Hey, so I'm sure that some people are wondering, Is this just an internship program? Or are the students that you're hiring, you know, full time hires, what, what's the status?
SHAWN GARRISON 12:31
So there's two answers to that question. So the first answer is the first student we have. We hired him three years ago and it was four hours a day for Monday. So you know, he came in tried it see how he was working on. If a school bus would drop them off. So at the local DCIU they provide transportation for the students, so the school bus would drop the student off eight o'clock in the morning. I would get them off of the bus and then the bus would pick them up at 12 o'clock and they would bring them back to school.
So that type of program through the local DCIU was based around their school day. And it was it was eight hours a day. Fast forward for four years in advance. that student is now working for us 32 hours a week.
So his mother drives jobs in the morning. His mother picks them up at night. So he's transitioned. He's graduated from local school districts and now he's transitioned into New Way as a full time employee and we're gradually ramping him up to 40 hours.
The second student we have is still with the local school district and he gets bused in and out. So this particular student, we were not sure he was going to be a great fit for us. We were warned that the student had trouble communicating. He was very introverted, did not take direction, did not speak at all. So it was it was a, it was a little more challenging of a task. And I can honestly say within 10 months of hiring the student and I speak to his parents, I speak to the life coaches. He is one of the funniest persons we have in the company. He is very outgoing. He's very, you know, very complimentary of people. That shell that he was in when he first came to New Way, was broken, and even the coaches and the school teachers are like, wow, something happened.
So we sit there and we've changed someone's lives that was an introvert, in the shell, they did not communicate well to fast forward 10 months, you know, highly active person, highly communicative person follows directions, you know, takes directions actually leads by doing things. So that is just a small snapshot of wow, you know, He got comfortable in the building and totally changed from the person that we were in, that we did not think was going to last a month because the job coach said, after the first shift, I don't think this is gonna work out, we probably got the wrong guy for you.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 15:13
SHAWN GARRISON 15:14
10 months later, he was phenomenal.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 15:16
Yeah. And that just, I mean, there's sort of a lot in that. Right. And, you know, I think it's one of the things, you know, on the disability side that we talk about is how sometimes all of the messaging and everything, we hear what people are saying about us, and we start to believe what people are saying about us, and you know, then we start acting accordingly.
And that happens to all of us and, you know, in a great environment, which is what we hope for, for every person, is we hope that every person gets to be in a great environment where you can, you know, really show who you are and thrive and grow and you know, it's just terrific. But there is a problem of a lot of negative messaging and other environmental circumstances. That can really also be the opposite be really negative.
SHAWN GARRISON 16:09
KATE FIALKOWSKI 16:14
So, you know, I think that it's terrific for us to think about what employers can do. And maybe you'd like to give some advice to our listeners, what advice would you have for other other employers?
SHAWN GARRISON 16:30
So I think the first first thing that I would say is, you know, it's not going to be easy. It's a it's a different mindset. But you have to at least be willing to change and accept that mindset. And then once you change, it is pretty easy. It's basic, working, manufacturing, employing. it's the same thing as employers that we do every day. So I think change your mindset, understand going into it that, you know, it is going to be a little more work a little more responsibility. But at the end of the day, it's something that we're currently doing today, you know, as employers right now.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 17:14
Yeah. So get on with business, huh?
SHAWN GARRISON 17:17
KATE FIALKOWSKI 17:20
Um, now, is there any advice that you might have for students who might be listening and in particular, students with disabilities that might be listening?
SHAWN GARRISON 17:32
So, you know, students with disabilities or students that are listening the advice is that it's going to be different, and it's going to be uncomfortable. But the end of the day know that the employer and your coworkers are there to support you.
Without the backing of the employer without the backing of the employees. New Ways program would not be successful. So, you know, again, it's going to be a little uncomfortable, it's going to be something different. But just know that your benefit is always in the mind of employees and employers just as any other employee. So no matter you know what position you're in, no matter what part of the company you're in, you are treated just like every employee. And we want to have your best interests at heart.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 18:29
I, um, you know, I would be remiss if I didn't give us a chance to talk a little bit about the, the situation we're in today at the start of this interview, you know, you mentioned that you had prior experience in the recession I've had prior experience in, in a recession. And, you know, we know how it feels. It's so uncomfortable in these uncertain times. So do you have any advice for people riding out the storm?
SHAWN GARRISON 19:08
I think that we've been through this before we've, may have not been through this type of magnitude, seeing they call it like a hidden enemy, some sort of virus, but we're constantly chased and faced with challenges in the world we live in today.
I know for an employer communication is key. Good, bad or ugly? We owe it to our employees to share with them, you know, what's going on with the company. And I think that you know, if you if you shut yourself off and don't take, you know, don't take emails or don't take Zoom, FaceTime, video calls, I think you're doing yourself a disservice. So I think that surround yourself with friends, loved ones, confidons. And, listen and communicate, you know, we have to share in the experiences.
And as an employer, I try and touch base with my team daily, even if it's just for five or ten minutes and you know, it could be talking about work or just talking about life, because we've transitioned to a remote workforce for half the company. So we still need to have this personal interactive, we're still human, we still need to support each other.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 20:28
Thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. And so I just want to summarize some of your last thoughts, hear advice to employers, have a different mindset and then get on with business. Students should be reminded that employers and colleagues are there to support them, and for everyone right now. communicate, communicate, communicate and share our experiences together.
SHAWN GARRISON 20:55
Yeah, and I think one last thing is that this program changes lives, you know, and for my employees, my employees are thanking me for doing this program just as the students we are hiring. So it changes lives and life's hard enough, but we just have to get through it together and help each other out.
KATE FIALKOWSKI 21:17
Thank you so very much, Shawn. I appreciate your time. We appreciate your time. And yeah, get back to business.
SHAWN GARRISON 21:26
KATE FIALKOWSKI 21:27
SHAWN GARRISON 21:28
All right. Thanks Kate.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Shawn Garrison, Vice President, Finance and Operations at New Way Air Bearings. More about New Way's Autism in Manufacturing Program
For more information
Contact Kate Fialkowski, Director of Academic Programs