Meet the Skills Team!

Mike Jewell works with a participant at the Vocational Training Center.

Name

Mike Jewell

What is your current role at skills?

Vocational Training (VT) Service Manager, Centre County

How long have you been with Skills, and what other roles have you had while you’ve been here?

I have been with Skills for a little over 7 years. I started out as a residential Direct Support Professional (DSP), moved to Residential Team Leader, Program Specialist for the Vocational Training (VT) Facility and Manager for the Centre County VT.

While as a team leader I assisted the training department and helped train new hires during their first few days of training. I am currently also serving on the safety committee and am a certified investigator.

How does your program help people overcome obstacles in their lives?

The VT supports people by helping them build their job skills. We work with everybody in the shop on many soft skills that are required in the workforce. We also work with about 12-15 different local companies in helping them complete work they need done, by paying our people to complete the jobs.  We take people out into the community to do various volunteer activities, exercise, or leisure activities.

We also have a small group called the Kiwanis Aktion Club. Our current project is making toddler math kits. Where toddlers and their parent can utilize different size, color, and shapes of wood we prep and cut.  The kit has different lessons to help the parent work with their child.

How do you determine what type of support someone needs in order to best help them?

Completing different jobs, in the VT, require different skill sets. We at the VT try everybody out on many jobs and determine if that job is in the skill set of the individual. If the job is difficult for them, we work on different modifications to help them succeed with that job. Modifications might include creating a jig to make the job possible, or working with the company to come up with different procedures that are more suitable for our industry.

What do you love about working at Skills?

I don’t think I can pinpoint one thing that I can say makes me love my job. I started working at Skills as a summer job before between school years working as a substitute teacher. However, the job, the company, staff and the people we support changed my mind and here I am 7 years later.

How does your personal experience with disability in your family guide your work at Skills?

In, 2005, my wife and I had a child we named Nathan, who at the time he was born had all indications, from testing, saying he was a typical developing boy. However, after a couple of days and testing it was determined he had Down syndrome.  Being around someone with an intellectual disability is not what I planned on in my life, but it was thrown at me and I had to embrace it.  When he got old enough for school, I decided to return to school and get a degree in Special Education so I’d understand and be able to help him during his time of learning. Nathan had changed my outlook on the intellectual disability community, which could be a reason why I chose to work at Skills and stay.

Everything I do for Skills comes from the perspective of being a parent of a child with an intellectual disability and being a provider to those with intellectual disabilities.  I think having a child with a disability has definitely helped me in working for Skills, in how I approach problems and how I work with people.