Drawing on VR for On-the-Job Training

Melvin Jordan photo

FT. MYERS, FL – Melvin Jordan III looks like your average college student or young professional, and that’s the way he prefers it. In fact, his boss Ted Sottong, Vice President, Architecture, Incorporated, was surprised to learn that Melvin has a disability; he hired him because he was the best candidate for the job, and that’s how it should be.

When Melvin, who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), first met Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor Lynn Engle, he was floundering at Edison State College. He was having problems concentrating and his schoolwork was suffering. They discussed different career options to build on his strengths and interests. Lynn suggested that he try something different and helped him enroll at High Tech Central, where he found his passion for drafting and design and flourished.

One of his teachers, Gary Christiano, knew the owners of Architecture, Inc. and asked if they would be interested in hiring Melvin, but they turned him down. Gary wouldn’t give up and suggested that they give VR’s On-the-Job (OJT) Training program a try to see if Melvin would be a good fit for the company.

On-the-Job Training is a VR program that gives customers the opportunity to work in an actual job site and gain real-world experience. VR pays the employee’s salary during OJT, along with reasonable training costs and any accommodations needed. It’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

They agreed, and after 11 months of training, Melvin was hired full time as a drafter. He has done so well that as he became interested in project management, the company has allowed him to get more involved in the process. “We’ve actually started working with him on running some projects and getting more involved with clients and engineers,” says Ted.

Ted is quick to complement Melvin for his enthusiasm, maturity, and curiosity about the business. “He is looking at it from where he is now, where he thinks he should be, and where he wants to go,” says Ted. “He’s asking a lot of questions, just trying to figure out what his future is going to look like. It’s just great to be around people like that.”

After earning his certification in drafting and design from High Tech Central, Melvin is now back at Edison State College working on his AA degree in drafting and design technology, while still working 35 hours for Architecture, Inc. Melvin wants to stay with the company that feels like family to him. “They make you feel comfortable, and they’re open to new ideas, whatever they might be,” he says. “They’re real open-minded and are really great people to work for.”

Melvin appreciates everything that VR and Lynn have done for him. “Lynn made everything as easy as possible. She helped me get the accommodations that I needed for school,” he says. Accommodations included allowing Melvin more time to take tests and/or allowing him to take the test out of the room and away from distractions.

Lynn is very proud of how well Melvin is doing today. “He’s embraced his disability and learned his boundaries, but he doesn’t want it to define him. He’s still growing, and we’ve both learned from it.”

When asked if he recommends the OJT program to other employers, Ted’s answer is a resounding, “Absolutely!” He continues, “There is a definite benefit to the company. You’re basically getting a person that someone is paying for you. It didn’t cost us anything. And there is some great talent out there, and if you find the right people that mesh with your business, what’s to lose?”

“We not only were paid Mel’s salary, but we were paid for the time that we spent with Mel to get him up to speed. So there is always a question about hiring somebody and the training period that comes with that, and the program takes care of that. We were compensated for all of the time spent working with Mel. It was great.”

If your business would like to participate in the On-the-Job Training program, contact your local VR office at (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org for a list of offices near you.

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,018 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job.