NewsPositively San Diego


San Diego nonprofit helping disabled employees thrive in the workforce

Posted at 7:43 AM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 10:43:14-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- For 25-year-old Brandon Schimka, the work day starts and ends at Albert's Restaurant inside the San Diego Zoo.

Brandon sets everything up in the safari-themed diner with tableware and condiments, and he makes sure everything is in tip-top shape for customers.

Brandon has been a busser there for about a year, and it's a role his dad couldn't be prouder of.

"I can hardly believe it; I never would've thought a couple of years ago he'd be doing this," said Randy Schimka, Brandon's father.

Brandon was diagnosed with autism at a young age. The severity of the neurological developmental disability is different for everyone, but his dad said Brandon's biggest struggle was interactions.

"I noticed right away his social skills improved because he works around co-workers and takes care of customers,” Randy said.

Brandon is one of the hundreds of disabled individuals whom the nonprofit Pride Industries helped land a job. The difference between their process versus a company's application portal is in the prep work. They help potential employees with resume building, mock interviews, road maps, and on-site assistance and check-ins.

"They have a job coach who comes on-site and helps Brandon and offers tips and suggestions," said Randy.

"We can be as visible as they need us to be or in the background as much as possible," said Brian Garback with Pride Industries.

Garback added the organization also trains employers like the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Hewlett-Packard, to name a few, to ensure they know how to work with people with disabilities, so everyone is successful.

Aside from their website, Pride Industries recently launched a pilot program for a bilingual helpline called "I Am Able” with case workers on standby ready to answer questions and provide tools.

"We take a person-centered approach. With rates of 1 out of 5 people with a disability being unemployed, there's an urgent need to connect resources to people seeking unemployment," added Garback.

Pride Industries was certainly a resource Brandon and his dad are happy they found.

"It's more than special, I love it," said Brandon.

"You just have to keep going, and just keep striving that someday they'll get some sort of opportunity to let them shine," added Randy.