VR3: Making a Difference
Q1, Quality One, Quality happens one person at a time

The power of Career Connect and teamwork

Cindy Hooks, service representative for the Social Security Administration in Laurens.

“I tell people left and right about VR!”

Cindy Hooks is an enthusiastic and energetic service representative for the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Laurens. She is also one of the first VR clients to be matched to a job with Career Connect, software that connects the right candidate with the right job.

“Right off the bat, Career Connect showed its value,” says Jim Williams, Client Services Specialist.

“What would once have taken a lot of time to accomplish, we can now do much more quickly and precisely. We can zero in on the talent pool appropriate to a business partner while matching the capabilities of a client to a job.”

Jobs listed in Career Connect may come directly from a business or from a staff member. In this case, Shirley Jarrett, Director of DDS, had learned about a job possibility with a local SSA office. “The preference was for hiring a veteran or an individual with a disability. I asked Pam Sprinkle, the Assistant District Manager in the Greenville Field Office, for a copy of the job description and forwarded this to Client Services,” says Jarrett.

With that information entered into Career Connect, several potential candidates were identified within minutes and then staff members narrowed down the match to Cindy. Stacie Smith, a VR Business Development Specialist, worked with the SSA office manager in Laurens to get Cindy an interview.

“I was on the brink of losing my house,” says Cindy. “I was working three jobs when I could, I was doing elder care, and I had knee problems.”

Seven years ago, Cindy moved to South Carolina from California, where she had been the assistant vice president of a bank. “I thought I would be able to pick up where I left off.”

Making the perfect match for clients and business partners

Career Connect is a multifaceted tool that VR uses to match our client’s to job opportunities.

Each job entered in Career Connect is identified by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes. Using the SOC codes, clients are matched to jobs based on skills, education, WorkKeys, geographic location and numerous other criteria. They may be matched to a specific job or to a larger job family. Searches can be narrowed down to a specific location, or broadened to include a county, or even the entire state.

In addition, Career Connect’s reporting features help us provide businesses and federal contractors with the information they need for compliance with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Career Connect also helps our staff identify and design training for jobs that require certification or develop a curriculum to help meet local business needs.

Career Connect is continuously updated with new features.

As the economy changed, she found herself becoming a full-time caregiver for her aunt, and eventually providing elder care for others. She also worked at a flower shop and as a substitute teacher. During this time, she began having trouble with her knee.

“In a year and a half I was out of work three times because of my knee. You can’t lift and bend and provide support to an elderly person when your body won’t let you.”

A friend referred her to VR for help.

“I was pretty beat up when I went to VR,” says Cindy. “I felt like I was never going to get back on my feet, I was never going to make more than $10 an hour, and what am I going to do? I even put my house on the market at one point. I thought I would relocate and go wherever there was a job. I was overwhelmed and discouraged, but the support I got from Bradyn and Stacie was exceptional.”

Bradyn Roddy was her VR counselor.

“Cindy is an outgoing, positive person that wants to make a mark on this world,” he says. “We helped with getting her treatment for her knee, including doctor’s visits and procedures, physical therapy and strength training. We also did a lot of counseling and guidance because she was at a crossroads for more than a year, trying to figure out, ‘What am I going to do to support myself?’”

The timing of the job at Social Security turned out to be ideal. Although Cindy interviewed for the position just three days after knee surgery, the job didn’t start until six weeks later, which gave her knee time to heal.

“I thought, ‘I’ll be lucky if I’m considered, let alone get this job.’ But Stacie encouraged me. If she had not said, ‘This is how you do it, this is how you want people to see you,’ and helped with my resume, I may not have gotten the job.”

“We became a team, a partnership,” explains Roddy. “Not a counselor and a business development specialist and a client. We were a team working to get Cindy to where she needed to be to achieve her goals.”

Cindy wholeheartedly agrees. “I can’t say enough about VR. Every time there was a mountain to climb they sorted it out. They found the answers. They made sure that I knew what was going on, and we just all did it together.”

And that teamwork continues.

“Cindy went from being a client to being someone who now provides referrals to VR from SSA,” says Roddy. “Through her, we’ve strengthened our relationship with SSA.”

Cindy is, typically, a little more direct. “America wants people back in the workforce. You guys are vital! At Social Security I hand out Bradyn’s cards all the time. We had him come to the office to meet everybody and tell them what VR does. We’ve had our staff attend VR Open House events. It’s created a lot more awareness.”

For Williams, Cindy’s story is just the beginning of what Career Connect offers.

Career Connect helped us connect Cindy with a job in her community that we probably would not otherwise have found,” he says. “It gives us the ability to look statewide for talent and more accurately match client skills to appropriate jobs. It tracks jobs in all sectors and helps us respond quickly to fill the needs of our business partners and provide detailed reports to businesses and contractors about how they are doing and how we are helping them.

“Bottom line: It helps us really focus on the relationship with the client and business partner. It saves time and we have satisfied clients and satisfied business partners.”

For Cindy, the proof is in the result.

“I sing your praises all over Facebook!” she says. “I never thought that at 61 I would be starting a new career with benefits and good pay.”

That’s what VR and Career Connect are all about!

Preparing and assisting eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to achieve and maintain competitive employment

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