LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and at KARK we’re celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities who impact our lives both big and small.
Trent Thomas, 42, has a disability that kept him from getting a job for nearly 10 years.
However, fast-forward to today, he is been promoted to a team lead position at his current employer, Pride Industries.
“There is hope and sometimes it takes hard work but I think sometimes it takes coming across those people that are willing to show you respect and give you the opportunity,” says Thomas.
Yet, things weren’t always this pleasant. Thomas says after a decade of rejection he began to witness how employers didn’t have avenues for working with those with disabilities and some weren’t willing to make accommodations despite knowing that he had a disability.
“I just needed someone to take that chance and Pride Industries – these people have given me a chance and saw something in me that I didn’t exactly see in myself at the beginning,” he says.
Pride Industries hires individuals with disabilities to perform cleaning and environmental services for federal buildings located in downtown Little Rock.
The company “prides” itself on providing equal opportunities for employment and advancement of all persons.
“How grateful I am for the opportunities that people have given me or saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself in the beginning,” says Thomas.
However, he says a big part started at Goodwill. There Brandi Alcacio, a job coach at Goodwill helped guide and prepare him with professional job training skills.
“I owe everything to her,” he says. “Without her, I may not be here.”
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas works closely with companies like Pride Industries to provide opportunities for success in the workplace. Pride Industries currently employs nine men and women referred by Goodwill.
“Me being given this opportunity and it’s helped my confidence and like I said, I am grateful for this opportunity because some people are in worse cases,” he says.
Thomas hopes that by sharing his story others will see that there are options and hope for employment for people with disabilities.
“This job and the people there that have helped him see that there can be hope for workers with a disability,” says Thomas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35% of adults in Arkansas have some type of disability. That’s more than one million people – people with a variety of skills and talents to offer local businesses and the people they serve.
For more information about Pride Industries, click here.