Successful business partnership benefits West Virginians with disabilities

The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (WVDRS) is answering the call to recruit WVDRS clients, who are interested in customer service representative jobs, to work with Amazon, the multinational company that provides online sales, web services, video and music streaming, Alexa through Echo devices, and so much more.

The Amazon Alternative Workforce Supplier Program (AWSP) is a staffing program tailored to meet the needs of individuals facing obstacles entering the workplace, starting with people with disabilities. Professional Contract Services, Inc. (PCSI) was one of the first suppliers to work with the AWSP to support viable candidates in the program. PCSI is a private, nonprofit corporation with a strong mission to provide employment opportunities to individuals with every type of disability.

WVDRS provides vocational rehabilitation services to assist West Virginians with disabilities to obtain or maintain employment. The state agency provides individualized work-related services to help these individuals with their unique needs and eliminate barriers to employment.

In late 2019, PCSI partnered with WVDRS to identify and recruit qualified candidates to fill positions at the Amazon call center in Huntington, West Virginia. Working together, PCSI and WVDRS placed six WVDRS clients into positions at the call center. From there, the partnership exploded into increased and successful placements.

"Together, we have created an environment of inclusion while helping individuals with disabilities reach their goals of independence," explained PCSI Special Projects Manager Pat Rodriguez. "We look forward to a continued partnership with all stakeholders as we navigate this space of ensuring competitive and gainful employment for our targeted population."

WVDRS Director Marjane Waldron could not be more pleased with the success of this growing business relationship. "One of our primary goals as a state vocational rehabilitation agency is to develop strong partnerships with business so that we can increase access to employment opportunities for our clients," said Waldron. "Cultivating these relationships is beneficial to everyone involved and I could not be more excited that we are working together to provide our clients with more job opportunities."

The partnership works like this — WVDRS rehabilitation professionals refer qualified and interested WVDRS clients to the Vocational Employment Specialist at PCSI, who then contacts the WVDRS client to conduct an initial interview and assessment. If the client is a good candidate, they are entered into a training cohort and PCSI's Vocational Employment Specialist provides follow-up and job coaching services to each individual hired.

Because of the partnership's accomplishments so far, WVDRS and PCSI are currently working together to find qualified WVDRS clients to help PCSI fill at least 24 customer service representatives to work virtually for Amazon starting in the fall of 2020. PCSI is currently recruiting for full-time, seasonal positions that should last at least six months. Individuals who are hired and are successful performers may be able to assimilate into permanent positions with Amazon.