Who Do Workshops Really Serve?
Many people think of workshop employees with "developmental disabilities" or "mental retardation" as a single block. Workshop employees actually bring a wide range of abilities.
In fact, some workshop employees actually work outside of workshops through supported employment programs. In many cases, they learned their job skills at a workshop and still receive job coaching and other assistance from the workshop. But their actual place of work is now at a private business in the community.
Other workshop employees remain happiest in the more structured environment offered by workshops. In fact, workshops today are providing employment for a wider range of workers than ever before. This is the result of several factors.
First, services that once institutionalized people with severe disabilities have been largely disbanded. Many of these individuals have come to workshops where they learn social and employment skills while earning a paycheck.
But these increases in opportunity sometimes cause challenges for workshops. While people with more severe disabilities are coming to workshops, those with the least severe disabilities are leaving to take supported/ community employment positions.
These are positive steps supported directly by workshops. But it has brought challenge to workshops at a time when outside economic forces make contracts more competitive.
Still another factor is the increasing age of those served. The result is that workshops struggle to server older workers, often with more severe disabilities.
"It’s a challenge that every workshop in Missouri is facing," explained Randy Hylton, director of Vocational Services, Inc., in Liberty. "It’s a challenge that few people outside of workshops see but our answer is very important to the people we serve, their parents and guardians."