Vocational assistance available through AbilityWorks

By Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors heard an update on the AbilityWorks program at their Oct. 4 meeting with Supervisor Jerry Hall calling it, “the county’s best kept secret.”

AbilityWorks, formerly Allie Enterprises, is a division of the Dept. of Rehabilitation Services and is based in the Becker community of Monroe county. From its home base, it serves Monroe and Chickasaw and is establishing a presence in Clay county as well.

Doug Upton addressed the board, explaining the training opportunities the program offers.

“We provide a service to people who have some kind of impairment, whether physical or mental, that means they can’t work,” Upton said. “We can teach them a skill and help them find employment.”

The facility partners with local businesses to put disabled people into positions that are comparable to their skills and is working with area high schools to offer vocational training and job placement for students. There is no charge for the service.

“We just want to let people know we’re here if they need help,” Upton said.

He also said that people who currently receive disability payments will not have their benefits cut if they opt into the program.

“We work with the SSI and disability folks on how much work is allowed,” Upton said. “We’re not out to get anyone’s benefits cut off.”

Upton said most of the current training and placement is in wood working or piece work like building crates and pallets, but the organization also partners with TruTemper and is looking for more industry partners.

“We match their skills to a real life job whether it’s in a factory, restaurant or grocery store,” Upton said. “As a matter of fact, McDonald’s is one of our partners.”

AbilityWorks provides transportation for training but workers must have their own transportation for employment.

Those who apply for the program will undergo testing for skills abilities and then train for new skills. Potential employees are paid while training and will be paid by the hiring business for employment.

The AbilityWorks program is funded through the federal government with a 20 percent match from the state.

Hall said he was glad to see Upton make his presentation to help spread the word about the option of vocational training and employment.

“Our job now is to get the word out to the people,” Hall said. “The more people we tell, the more people we’re going to help.”

For more information on AbilityWorks, Inc., call the District II office in Tupelo at 842-1010 or contact Upton at 369-2227.