Millions of Americans rely on their eyeglasses to bring their world into sharper view. Finding those perfect frames is a blend of fit, function, and fashion. But it’s the lenses where the magic really happens.
Thousands of orders for prescription lenses are processed every day at ABB Labs in Erlanger, Kentucky. The factory is bright and orderly, ensuring that each customer’s prescription is made to exacting specifications and sized to fit a seemingly endless array of frames.
Four of the newest members of the ABB Optical team in Northern Kentucky are recent graduates of the Boone County Schools Project SEARCH program, a partnership with Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati that prepares young adults with developmental disabilities for future careers.
“To say we have four individuals who were hired in the same location, and especially during a pandemic, it’s just absolutely amazing,” said Julie Callahan, a Job Developer for Easterseals. “It really speaks to ABB Optical. They’re just an amazing company.”
ABB’s facility in Northern Kentucky is new to the region, but the company has championed inclusive hiring for many years. It worked with a disability services agency at its New York plant to gain a better understanding of matching careers for people with developmental disabilities based around work interests.
“In the manufacturing community, a lot of our jobs are repetitive. That’s where some of our individuals thrive,” explained Jason Schweitzer, Human Resources manager for ABB Labs.
Sabin Brothers was the first person served by Easterseals in Project SEARCH to get hired on at ABB Labs. He discovered the company while attending a local job fair.
“He came over and shook hands with Jason,” said Mary Brothers, Sabin’s grandmother. “They started talking, and he asked Sabin if he’d be interested. He called the next day.”
Brothers beams with pride in sharing how Sabin landed the job independently. When ABB learned about Sabin’s job coaching and development through Easterseals and Project SEARCH, it opened up additional opportunities for three of his fellow interns: Jacob, Britton, and Angel.
“I did a lot of things in Project SEARCH. It’s kind of similar to this,” Sabin explains. Project SEARCH allows interns to experience several job roles with a company while gaining a deeper understanding of work culture.
“I get up in the morning, I go to work at 8 a.m. and get off at 4:30 p.m. I enjoy it. It’s great here,” Sabin says.
Sabin and his co-workers have made a tremendous impact on employee culture at ABB Labs. So much so that when it came time for the annual holiday fundraiser, the employees chose to give back to Easterseals.
“Even those managers who don’t oversee them have met them in the break room. They have talked to them about sports if it’s Jacob, or computers if it’s Angel,” Schweitzer said. “They really see that face of Easterseals and know that if they are going to donate money, it’s going to a really great cause.”
Schweitzer said that culture of inclusivity spurred a very high participation rate in the annual raffle. ABB Optical then matched the money raised by employees for a gift of $3,224.
“It’s so important for other employees to be able to connect and realize that within our differences, we’re all so incredibly special. We all have something to give. It may not be the same thing the other person has to give, but that’s what makes it so special,” Callahan said.
“I had an individual stop me and say he can’t imagine working anywhere else and not seeing our individuals every day. That really warmed my heart.”
Schweitzer adds this message for other companies and hiring managers looking to build a more inclusive workforce for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Don’t think they’re limited in their abilities just because they have a different function. Give them a chance and see where they can go. You can really be amazed at how they can thrive within that community.”
“Turnover is always a big issue in manufacturing,” Schweitzer said. “The four individuals we have here have never received a write-up. They don’t miss time. They’re such a joy to be around. Their good mood and behavior grows around them and permeates other employees.”
Easterseals is eager to meet local companies who are interested in building more inclusive workforces by providing work experiences or hiring adults with developmental disabilities. For more information, contact Cindy Aardema, Community and Family Engagement Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.