Cesar Rodriguez started to lose his hearing when he was seven years old. When he entered the workforce as an adult, he stopped wearing over-the-ear hearing aids on interviews. “I didn’t want to be discriminated. Some employers are fearful of hiring people with disabilities because they don’t know what to expect,” he said.
Rodriguez’s colleague told him about Goodwill Services Incorporated’s (GSI) AbilityOne program in 2012.
GSI is an entity related to Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia. GSI holds several AbilityOne contracts and administers the recruitment, training, staffing and support of more than 300 individuals annually, 76 percent of whom have documented disabilities.
Rodriguez met with an employment specialist, who created a personalized job development plan for him. “Goodwill helped me a lot with my resume,” he said. “They also worked with the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing so I could get new hearing aids. I also had a job coach who helped me prepare for a new job.”
“Cesar Rodriguez is the perfect example of how AbilityOne is designed to help people with disabilities advance in the workforce,” said Orlando Starkes, Goodwill’s contract services operations manager. “AbilityOne levels the playing field for job seekers with all levels of disability. We’re able to develop relationships with companies and agencies that support our mission of creating pathways of opportunity and success.”
Rodriguez was hired as a stock clerk at the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in Richmond. Four years later, he is now leaving DLA for competitive employment as a prosthetics purchasing agent at Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond. “The added support I received at DLA was very empowering. I learned new skills and improved the ones I already had. I’m ready to start another job and Ability One was the stepping stone.”
Starkes is proud to see Rodriguez advance his career on his own. “It’s truly fulfilling for me to know my team helped Cesar spread his wings,” he said. “He gained so much from the AbilityOne program, he can now branch out on his own. That’s what we want for everyone who comes to Goodwill for employment assistance. Those barriers don’t have to be permanent road blocks.”
Rodriguez says his co-workers are supportive of his plans to move on from DLA. “I told them I was partially deaf when I started here, and some even learned American Sign Language.” Rodriguez also speaks Spanish, so his tri-lingual ability is one that will benefit him in the workforce. “I thank Goodwill for their support and encouragement. They can help people get to where they want to be.”