Each of the job applicants was grateful for the opportunity to interview and prove that past mistakes in life only served as added motivation to do better in the future.
The job seekers came from ten different agencies with supported employment programs that collaborated to hold the hiring event with Lowe’s. Two human resource managers, from the Lowe’s stores in Southgate and Allen Park, interviewed the applicants at Southwest Solutions’ Housing Resource Center on April 15.
“We were certainly impressed with the quality of the individuals that we saw, and I commend the staff at the agencies for their due diligence in providing applicants with relevant skills who want to work,” said Tracey Sampson, HR manager at the Lowe’s store in Southgate.
Typically, about 10% of the individuals that Tracey interviews will be hired for available positions at Lowe’s. Tracey expects, though, that as many as seven of the 23 applicants at the hiring event will receive job offers from Lowe’s. The jobs are for the busy spring and summer seasons, but could lead to longer-term careers with the company.
At the event, Antonio Tyson interviewed with Beverly Peguese, HR manager at the Allen Park store. Antonio was anxious because of the felony he committed when he was 19 that resulted in ten years in prison. Antonio is now 33.
“I am always trying to better myself, and just because I did something terrible when I was young and immature does not mean that I am bad person for life,” Antonio said. “Because of my felony, I get stereotyped and it’s hard to get work, except for some low-paying jobs. When I tell someone in a job interview about my past, they usually tense up, end the interview early, and I never hear from them again.”
Beverly, however, did not react that way to Antonio’s disclosure. She was impressed with Antonio’s skills and his pursuit of a college degree in business administration, and she encouraged him to apply for an opening at Lowe’s suited to his qualifications and interests.
“We know that people change and should not be defined by previous mistakes if they are honest about the past and willing to move forward,” said Tracey concerning Lowe’s hiring policies. “We want to give people a second chance and help tear down barriers to employment.”
A traditional barrier to employment has been the stigma of mental illness. Supported employment programs help individuals recovering from mental illness find and retain jobs by working closely with employers to provide qualified individuals who received the support services they need to function well in the workplace.
Several consumers of mental health services at Southwest Solutions participated in the Lowe’s hiring event.
Nikki Rodriguez, 23, has two young children and recently starting working part-time at Arrow Chemical Products in southwest Detroit. She was placed there through the Supported Employment program.
“That was my first job ever and it made me feel more independent and better about myself,” Nikki said. “I’m looking for additional work opportunities so I can have a career and be an inspiration to my kids.”
Darnell Buffenn, 51, has also been working part-time at Arrow and wants to develop a sustainable career in which he can work with his hands. Darnell has been receiving treatment for depression for two years. “The treatment helped me build my confidence so I could get back into the routine of work, and that has been very good for me, too, building my confidence even more, Darnell said.
Shawana Hicks, 22, was pleased by how composed she was during her Lowe’s interview. “Usually, I’m so nervous when I do an interview because I am anxious to get a job,” Shawana said. “Work means everything to me because I want to be self-sufficient, have my own apartment, own a car, and have a good life.”
Including Southwest Solutions, the agencies participating in the hiring event were:
- Community Care Services
- Detroit Central City Community Mental Health
- Development Centers
- The Guidance Center
- Hegira Programs
- Lincoln Behavioral Services
- New Center Community Mental Health Services
- Northeast Guidance Center
Karen Harkness, an employment specialist at The Guidance Center, has cultivated a connection with Lowe’s and she arranged for the company to meet the job candidates at the event. “Lowe’s understands what our folks are facing and they take every applicant’s individual situation into consideration,” Karen said.
The Supported Employment Services (SES) program is sponsored by the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. The ten agencies meet regularly to foster support and cooperation in pursuit of their common mission of helping consumers realize their goals of employment and recovery.
“Bringing all these different agencies together for an event like this works to everyone’s advantage,” said Barbara Gray, who supervises Supported Employment Services at Southwest Solutions. “We all have one goal in mind: To help qualified individuals who really want to work apply their skills to benefit themselves and the employer.”