Written by Mary Jane Horton
Since June there has been an exciting new program at Torrance Memorial
Medical Center. The Supported Employment Program, a partnership with Goodwill
Industries, will be a boon to the hospital, the participants and the community
by forging a pathway into the workforce for people with physical or developmental
disabilities who start out as paid interns.
“Goodwill has a history of supported employment programs,”
says Johanna Johnson-Gilman, Torrance Memorial’s director of food
and nutrition services. “But this is the first time they have done
it in a hospital in our area. The intern program is starting off very
well. We have three interns at the moment, and one is beginning the onboarding
process to get hired. Right now they are all working in food services,
where there tends to be a shortage of applicants for jobs. So it is really
a win-win situation."
Goodwill receives referrals from Regional Center (an organization that
coordinates and provides community-based services to individuals with
developmental disabilities). Katie Del Rio, supported employment services
manager for Goodwill in southern Los Angeles, explains how it works: “The
program (available to people over age 18) matches a job coach with an
intern. The coach is with them 100 percent of the time during their internship.”
Since the program was developed for people with little or no job experience,
these coaches are the key to the success of these individuals. “The
job coach will shadow the intern and give them on-the-job training. They
are really there for anything the person needs. They are like a personal
work assistant,” says Del Rio.
According to Stan James, associate director of workforce development for
Goodwill Southern Los Angeles County, “The work coaches are integral
to this program, and they have a wide range of backgrounds. They may have
a history of working with kids, or they could just be someone who has
a business background with a desire to work in their community.”
Getting Hired is the Aim
“The end goal in this program is always to get the person hired,”
says James. “We are always checking on the person’s progress
and with the employer to make sure the person is a good fit.”
People involved with the program expect—because of its strong start—that
it will grow and there will be more interns than the three at present.
“I have already talked to the director of environmental services,”
says Johnson-Gilman, “and we can envision hiring someone to clean
patient rooms, lobbies and operating rooms in the future. I am especially
excited about this program because it improves the diversity of our workforce.
We have every age, ethnicity and color represented, and this program adds
To the goal of getting the interns hired, they are all, of course, well
trained for their jobs. Currently the interns in food service all have
extensive training about food safety and preparation. Says Del Rio, “Some
of these interns had little to no experience, so the training process
and on-the-job coaches are very important. Our mission is to place people
who may have no employment experience at all. Everyone deserves a paycheck.”
She goes on to say, “The individuals we work with are committed and
on time. They don’t call in sick, and they all have great attitudes.”
Johnson-Gilman adds, “They are just the kind of employees we want
With those kinds of accolades, the future of this program looks bright.
“We want to expand the program and also get word out to the community
on how important this endeavor is. At the end of the day everyone wants
to work, and that is what we strive to do,” says James.