NewsPolk County


Polk companies hire disabled workers to solve labor shortage

employU helped more than 3,000 workers with disabilities find jobs
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Posted at 7:06 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-22 20:44:45-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — The rapid population growth in Polk County has sparked an explosion of new jobs. More than 100 companies have hired workers with disabilities to help with labor shortages.

Cameron Bailey, 20, has been working at Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center in Lakeland for seven months.

“I clock in, grab my stuff, head to this area and then go straight to work,” said Cameron Bailey.

Bailey sorts and organizes auto parts in the warehouse. He has autism and this is his very first job.

“I like working here to be helpful, makes me feel like I'm useful for something and it’s a place where I can be myself instead of trying to be someone I'm not,” Bailey said.

Advance Auto Parts is partnering with employU, a nonprofit disability employment agency, to tap into the hidden workforce.

“We experienced some staffing difficulties during the pandemic, so we’re always looking for great talent. Through some of the benefits the employeU program has provided for us here with the people with disabilities program, we’ve been able to bring in 17 members,” said Mithra Sagar, Operations Manager at Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center.

EmployU provides training for people with physical and mental disabilities, from resume writing through the interview process and on-the job training. Since the recovery from the pandemic, employU saw an uptick in businesses contacting them. They’ve helped more than 3,000 workers with disabilities find jobs this past year.

“Our clients are hard workers and they’re people who just want to be given a chance to do a job, and once they get into that job they tend to stay there for a long time," said Kellie Ebeling, employU employment specialist.

Bailey is looking forward to growing with the company.

“This is my happy place,” said Bailey.