Posted on April 18, 2017

Revealing Hidden Skills: Interns with Developmental Disabilities Get Work Experience at PG&E

By Tony Khing

SAN FRANCISCO Connie’s a prolific author who has written seven books that are available on Amazon. She even has her own website.

But for four hours a day, five days a week, Connie is an intern with PG&E’s diversity and inclusion department, a part of human resources, in San Francisco. She handles numerous administrative duties, including tracking communications and updating databases (she’s also proficient at PowerPoint).

Connie, left, with coach Yuki Li, is one of four PG&E interns from Project SEARCH, which provides real-life work experience for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Connie is one of four PG&E interns from Project SEARCH. This program is available through The Arc San Francisco, a nonprofit learning center that supports individuals with developmental disabilities to meet the challenges of adulthood while achieving personal goals and lifelong success. The program partners these young adults with business and education partners who provide training and employment opportunities in an actual business environment.

“This year marks the sixth year of our partnership with The Arc San Francisco,” said PG&E Diversity and Inclusion program manager Michael Coyle, who oversees PG&E’s partnership and program involvement. “We’re proud of the careers we’ve been able to build in our community.”

Yuki Li, Connie’s job coach from The Arc San Francisco, said the work experience is good for the interns.

“Interns can practice their skills,” Li said. “They can do so much more, but their skills are hidden until they get a chance to demonstrate them.”

PG&E was the first company in San Francisco to partner with The Arc San Francisco and host a Project SEARCH program.

The nine-month internship involves classroom instruction at City College of San Francisco, career exploration and on-the-job training. Interns rotate positions every three months and have an Arc job coach who gets them started and provides ongoing support.

Besides providing meaningful job assignments, each department provides the intern a work space and relevant equipment needed to complete their work. A PG&E employee acts as an intern’s supervisor to ensure that onsite safety and inclusion are foundations in the partnership.

One beneficiary of Connie’s internship is Lavina Tam, a senior total rewards assistant. The relationship has been reciprocal. Connie has helped Tam with a range of assignments. Tam appreciates how adults with developmental disabilities can contribute to a company.

“They’re eager to go above and beyond what’s required of them,” said Tam. “They take great pride in the opportunity to work and contribute in a corporate work setting.”

Li said interns can change an office atmosphere quickly because they often bring a cheerful and positive attitude to work. As a result, they tend to put a smile on everyone’s face, even during the busiest of times.

“Seeing how eager these interns approach their work has made me more appreciative of my work.” said Tam.

PG&E interns from Project SEARCH have found employment. One became a part-time administrator with the company before joining Facebook full time.

“The internship helps them build their career skill sets and makes them marketable, which increases opportunities to find paid work,” said Tam.

Coyle pointed out that since 2011, interns have gone on to work for Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Inuit and Xerox.

“We’re proud of the long record of building diverse talent locally though this program,” said Coyle.

While Connie makes contributions to PG&E, she’ll continue pursuing her passion for writing. Her favorite movie is the original “Star Wars” and her favorite character is Princess Leia because “she always fights for women’s empowerment.” In fact, one of Connie’s books is entitled, “When Females Rule Supremo!”

Connie likes to write science fiction, but she’s also a talented poet. This poem, from her book entitled “Soul Enlightenment: A Poetry Anthology,” says a lot about what many people wish for in society:

Dreamlovin’ In a Perfect World

In a perfect world,

everyone accepts each other

for who they are,

not what they are

In a utopian society,

there will be no problem

be it

human nature,

Mother Nature

Everyone will live in harmony,

not in ill-will

Said Li: “Connie is amazing.”

Email Currents at Currents@pge.com

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