In March, as workplaces began shutting down due to Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay Home Stay Safe” order, McKenna Davis knew it was critical to help her clients persevere. “Our clients were being laid off or furloughed indefinitely,” she says. “It was tough, they began having feelings of depression, self-doubt, and loneliness.”
At the time, McKenna was the program manager of Kerr’s Project SEARCH internship program at Kaiser Westside Medical Center. The employability training program for individuals experiencing I/DD was paused once the hospital began admitting COVID-19 patients.
McKenna began to focus on how to keep her clients engaged with their job training through a virtual format. “Because work gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth and also connects us socially, there was a clear need to help our clients keep their work skills sharp,” she says.
Within two months, Kerr’s Employment Services team began supporting 28 individuals through the newly established Kerr Career Club. The 12-week online program gives adults experiencing I/DD the opportunity to remain connected with their community while strengthening their job skills.
Each day is dedicated to a vital job skill, from technology and finances to health and wellness and coping mechanisms. McKenna explains, “Mondays we focus on team building activities and how to have critical conversations in the workplace, such as how to ask for help and advocate for yourself.”
On Fridays, clients explore potential career opportunities by virtually touring area businesses and engaging in informational interviews. “The tours provide that sense of going out, seeing new things, meeting new people, and offering a glimpse of places they could possibly work,” McKenna notes.
Currently, Kerr Career Club has started its third cohort, with participants across five counties.