Western Mass Employment collaborative partners with local employers

WESTFIELD – With six separate collaboratives across the state of Massachusetts, WMEC (Western Massachusetts Employment Collaborative) is an organization striving to help increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Riverside Community Care, the parent company of  WMEC, is located in Dedham, Mass, and is involved in a partnership between service providers, government agencies, workforce development entities, and employers.

Riverside Community Care has been a part of this initiative for nearly seven years, while WMEC has been established in the Western Massachusetts area for two and a half years.

Pam Mendes, an Employer Liaison for Riverside Community Care, listed what qualifies an individual as someone who would have a disability and fit into the WMEC program.

These are real examples of people who have gone through the Western Massachusetts Employment Collaborative program. (Photo from Western Massachusetts Employment Collaborative)

The list ranges from a physical or mental problem, to recovering from trauma like a loss of a family member or friend, also PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), blind or deafness, autism, etc.

Mendes said that the while the type of disabilities certainly vary with the people who enter the program, there is one common goal between the parent company and the agencies.

“What we’re trying to do is make better matches for our employers,” said Mendes. “It’s the responsibility of the agency to get to know the individual.”

There are multiple employers who have used WMEC’s services in the past, including Big Y, CVS, Enterprise, TJ Maxx, Yankee Candle, University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and MGM Springfield is soon to be included in the list.

Mendes also added that WMEC has helped with job placements for around 100 people.

Riverside Community Care partners with over 25 different agencies across Western Massachusetts and Community Enterprises is one of those agencies that assists clients with job opportunities in the local area, having offices in Westfield and Holyoke.

Ethan Clayton, an Employment Coordinator for Community Enterprise, works directly with the individual who has the disability. Clayton helps his clients with resume building, interviewing skills, and on-site job coaching.

According to Clayton, WMEC has one specific program that seems to be rather successful; the PRE-ETS (Pre-Employment Transition Services) program that works directly with high schools and colleges.

With a growing younger population, Clayton sees a clear reason why his agency and so many other agencies are seeking students with disabilities who are interested in finding a job.

Noting that it is a very individualized program, Clayton said that PRE-ETS mainly surrounds jobs that involve hospitality, food and beverage, factory/warehouse, and retail. These four different employment possibilities are said areas that will benefit potential clients.

“It’s an area where some of the students might get experience in the four areas in one location,” said Clayton.

Even after landing a position the individual still works with an employment coordinator like Clayton.

“The job coach needs to be there to push them,” said Clayton. “The best thing we do for the students is advocate for them.”

Since Clayton also trains the employers, the end goal is to have the client completely on their own with the employer that they work for.

A shining example of a successful partnership between an agency and an employer is between Clayton and the Ranch Golf Club in Southwick.

Mike Holton, the Grounds Superintendent at the Ranch, said that he has had clients of Community Enterprise working for him the last two years.

Initially, Clayton arrived to the Ranch with a group of clients who began to do little things at the pro shop, and then went to fixing fairway divots and tee divots.

In the fall of 2016, Holton said that he had one young man working for him who did a variety of tasks, including mowing, fixing tee divots, trimming, and backpack blowing.

“We try to put them in positions where they’ll do well and succeed,” said Holton about discovering what the individual is comfortable doing.

Holton said the individuals from Community Enterprise would work at The Ranch for around four weeks or so. He has been very pleased with the partnership and had high praise for the last worker.

“I think his best attributes was he was really conscientious, a great kid, and he definitely listened and took pride in what he did,” said Holton.

Although the Ranch doesn’t have any clients of Community Enterprise or any other agency working for them currently, Holton is hoping that the partnership starts up again in the near future.

To Top