Austin McQuade working

Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities Success Story. Austin McQuade Lands a Job at CDA.

Hear the exciting story of how Austin McQuade obtained his certification as a Manufacturing Technician and quickly found his dream job  despite his disability.


Show Notes For the Austin McQuade Story

Rick Sizemore is the Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Rick’s Contact info: @rickwwrc   540-332-7214.

Anne Hudlow is the Director of the WWRC Foundation. Anne’s Contact info: or

For more information on CDA-USA visit their website.


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Austin: Working hard so I can buy a house, have a nice future, have a family; just aiming for the stars really. They’re the best company I have worked for, they are very professional, they are very nice, and the company is like a big family honestly.

Rick: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio, the courageous vocational rehabilitation story of Austin McQuade, and how the career pathways for individuals with disabilities lead him to a great job in the automated labeling industry. Hi, I’m Rick Sizemore; here with my co-host Anne Hudlow, who directs the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation, bringing you these courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation

Anne: From the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, where Rick Sizemore has worked for over 30 years, helping individuals with disabilities prepare for employment.

Rick: We are celebrating the journeys of those brave and unstoppable individuals with disabilities, who show us all that they are willing to do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles to independence and employment. And we’re taking a closer look at how Vocational Rehabilitation provides the supports and assistance needed for success in disability employment.

Anne: We also feature the professional rehabilitation counselors, who have dedicated their lives and careers, to helping individuals with disabilities, lead more productive and fulfilling lives while building up the workforce. Rick we are always excited to focus the spotlight on companies who hire individuals with disabilities.

Rick: Well Anne, today we are going to focus on CDA USA, they were incorporated in Richmond Virginia, back in 2012, from a sister company in France. They’ve been making high quality semi-automatic and automatic labelers, and fillers for over 20 years. Interesting. You go to their website, you can see all these machines, and find a little more about what they do. If you go to the website, you’ll see something else that we have been talking about on this podcast, and how it’s becoming a reality – manufacturing jobs. I am reading from the website right now, “we are currently looking for local sales representatives, and technicians, so if you would like to send us an app, you can Email us,” and it has the contact information. Which by the way; we will include in our show notes at Our guest today, Austin McQuade; did just that. He contacted CDA, and landed his dream job.

Anne: That’s right Rick, on today’s big inspiration showcase, a highly successful young man who is going to re-trace the steps from his disability, to landing a dream job through Vocational Rehabilitation. Austin McQuade gives us an up-close, and personal look at demands side, workforce driven training, stackable credentials, and how a hands-on learning model, helped him attain the coveted MT1 credential from the Manufacturing Skills Institute. And how all of those things paved the way to his dream job at CDA, welcome to the podcast Austin.

Austin: Hey, how are you doing?

Anne: Thanks so much for being here.

Rick: Nice to have you’re here; Austin joins us from his Skype in his home in Richmond VA, we are thrilled about your new job, but let’s talk first about your path to employment. Tell us how you got interested in manufacturing Austin.

Austin: Well, I was at the school for a while and I was trying different courses, but nothing really seemed to fit, and I have always loved working with my hands, and always loved Science and Math; so when the MT1 class started, I jumped for it.

Rick: What was high school like?

Austin: High school was ok, I got beta club, honor roll, and it was fairly easy; but my class I really liked was called Theatre Production. I would build the sets of different plays. High school was interesting, I got good grades, but I had to really work hard for them.

Rick: Like everyone on this podcast, we are talking about disability employment, so tells us a little bit about your disability.

Austin: Well, I have Asperger’s, which is a form of Autism, I have A.D.H.D, I have A.D.D, and muscle spasms.

Rick: So, with those challenges though, you said you had really good grades in high school.

Austin: Yes but I had to work really hard for them, that’s for sure.

Rick: I’m sure you did!

Austin: I had to stay back a lot of days, and study with the teachers to comprehend certain things, that just wouldn’t click for me, but for others students it would be natural.

Rick: Yes, but it seems like you eventually get there, but you had to work harder.

Anne: it takes some dedication.

Austin: usually I had to work twice as hard as any other person.

Anne: So, Austin what brought you to WWRC for MTT training?

Austin: My high school told me about this program, showed me it, and my teacher recommended me for it; so that is how I heard of it, and I just couldn’t way to get in after that.

Rick: It sounds like a really good combination of all your qualities, you like science, you like math, you’re good with your hands, and you like to build things; so it seems like you’re a natural for a job in manufacturing.

Austin: Yea, I love it. It’s not bad.

Anne: So, we have gotten a lot of positive comments about the training, which has really just started, can you tell us some of the high lights of the training for you.

Austin: Well, when I heard of the class, I thought it was going to be something bland and basic, but it was far more than what I could ever imagine.

Rick: Tell us some more about that.

Austin: We got into math, chemistry, electricity, physics, but anything you could fit in the book, it’s in there.

Rick: Manufacturing today, is a lot different than the jobs that people consider as manufacturing jobs, even just a few years ago.

Austin: Yes, like in my job, you had to have a lot of critical thinking skills, and be on your feet all day; you know you just had to click pretty well.

Rick: I mean, one of the things that we’ve heard over, and over from guests on this show is that they work hard, and it sounds like you worked really hard in this program, and you’ve been really successful.

Austin: Yea, pretty good, I do work hard. To make it to be able to have this podcast with you all, I actually had to work through both of my breaks, morning and afternoon, so that I could make it home on time.

Rick: Oh man!

Anne: Well, we appreciate that.

Rick: I feel so honored.

Anne: Oh my goodness.

Rick: I feel so honored. Well, there’s something called the workforce Innovation and Opportunities act, and that rates places like, Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation center, on some key measures. One is credential attainment, and you got several of the stackable credentials, can you tell us what some of the credentials you received were.

Austin: I have the MT1 certification; I have the MS certification, I have forklifting, customer service, CRC, OSHA 10.

Rick: Oh yea, OSHA-10; everyone wants OSHA-10 in manufacturing.

Anne: You know, we owe the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities act, which talks about skill gains, what are some things that you’ve felt that you’ve gained.

Austin: I gained a lot of critical thinking skills, if I’m faced with a problem; I can have two or three different outcomes in my head, that I would think of, and I could pick the best logical one for the situation.

Rick: So, tell us about this job, what are you going to be doing as a Field Tech. for CDA?

Austin: Well, as the Field Tech., usually you talk with the company one the phone, and see what their concerns are if there is a failure in a machine, or if it’s not meeting the output that they would like, and they want to upgrade it; we find the model, then we get all the parts that we can to fix it or upgrade it, then we go on sight, and fix it or repair it.

Rick: You’re going to be an expert on these labeling and filling machines.

Austin: Yea, it’s actually pretty fun.

Anne: That makes sense. So the next question is kind of two fold, what challenges did you have throughout the program.

Austin: I love math, but math doesn’t love me.

Rick: Ha-ha, you’re not alone.

Austin: So, I usually had to stay back, and have Jim help me with it, he actually gave me a big math practice book that I would take back to my room and I would practice at night.

Anne: That’s great, it sounds like you’ve been through high school, you had to get a little extra help and that type of thing; which we do a lot of the times. Do you feel like the class size, the curriculum, that type of thing, Director, Staff, was helpful to you.

Austin: Jim’s class, the MT1, was the best class I have ever had honestly, it was nice and small, we could all get hands on opportunities, every day – it was phenomenal.

Anne: That’s wonderful.

Rick: Some have said that the hands on aspect of the program, is one of the better features – particularly for someone who has a learning disability, or Aspergers like yourself.

Austin: Yes.

Rick: What scared you the most as you went through Vocational Rehabilitation.

Austin: Not getting my certifications.

Rick: Well, you certainly did that. What inspires you the most about working in manufacturing?

Austin: Just working hard, so I can buy a house, have a nice future, have a family, just aiming for the stars really.

Anne: So Austin, what would you say to someone who is thinking of hiring someone with a disability?

Austin: Usually, they are a lot harder working than everyone else, that’s about the truth you know.

Rick: Yea, well what would you say to have a disability that was thinking of trying Vocational Rehabilitation?

Austin: It’s a great program, a lot of nice teachers, and it’s free.

Rick: I’m really curious if you can walk us through the steps of getting the job at CDA.

Austin: Ok. Well I applied to three different factories; the first one never messaged me back, but that’s fine. I got offers from both of them, and I chose CDA France, just because it had a little bit more benefits, and a smaller work area with less people that I have to remembers names of.

Rick: So, you actually had two job offers with your MT1.

Austin: Yes.

Rick: Wow.

Anne: And, how long was that after you finished the program Austin.

Austin: Oh, it was no time at all really.

Anne: Almost immediate.

Rick: So you graduated and then went right to work.

Austin: Yea.

Anne: Super.

Austin: Well honestly I think it’s the best thing I could have ever done, because if I didn’t go to WWRC, I would have a dead end job, something part time or full time, but making $7.25 an hour. But, with this school, I making much more than that now, I’m getting benefits, I get to travel; so I’m going to California for eight days, to L.A, then to San Francisco. It just opens a better future for me.

Anne: Well, I just want to say from our stand point; we are in awe of you, right Rick? I mean, this is incredible, an incredible amount of work and commitment that has gone into this and you know, you have to give yourself credit, because I know that you have said that this program has done a great deal for you, but you had the motivation to do this, and to reach your goals; and we applaud you.

Rick: Yea, way to go.

Anne: Great job

Rick: There are a lot of forces working together. First of all, there are a lot of manufacturing jobs, if you go on that website, at CDA; and you’ll see that they are looking for field techs. But they aren’t just going to hire just anyone, they’re hire someone who’s been trained, and the credential that came from the Manufacturing Skills Institute – the MT1. That is recognized all across the state, and all across the country as the vehicle by which you can demonstrate that you have the skills that these manufactures are working for, I also have to say that we’ve got a ton of support here at Wilson Workforce from the Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities Grant. They’ve supported us; our general assembly has supported us. The manufacturing community, particularly the Manufacturers Association, has rallied around these efforts, and in the new law, the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act really pulls all of this together for the Workforce Development. So, at the beginning of this great effort, you are one of the first graduates to leave WWRC, and get a job; so you certainly are an ambassador for Vocational Rehabilitation all across the country. This podcast is going to go out to a lot of people, and we certainly hope they’ll look to you as a shining example of someone who had some challenges, got involved, and as you said, worked really hard to attain a goal, and you have attained that goal; and not only have you helped yourself, you have helped the workforce here in the Common Wealth of Virginia, as others will do in other states as well. Anything else you want to tell us about CDA, a good company to work for?

Austin: Oh, it’s one of the better companies, or I should say the best company I have worked for. They are very professional, they’re very nice. The company is like a big family honestly. They work with you, and if you do a mistake, they will teach you how to make it right; honestly, I love it working there.

Rick: So, congratulations, it’s just so exciting to hear your story Austin.

Anne: Congratulations Austin and we really appreciate you being here today.

Austin: Well thank you, I appreciate you having me.

Rick: Any final thoughts?

Austin: Not that I can think of right now. I’m sorry; I’ve been working all day, so I am real tired.

Anne: Well that’s good, that’s where we want you, working and reaching your goals.

Rick: We like to hear that. Well Austin, we wish you nothing but success in the months and years ahead as a leader in the labeling and filling industry. Austin McQuade is a field technician for CDA, and lives in Richmond Virginia.

Anne: If you’d like to know more about the WWRC or our Foundation, and how you can get involved, all of our contact information is in the show notes at Until next time, I’m Anne Hudlow.

Rick: And I’m Rick Sizemore, sharing the courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation.

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Support for the WWRC Foundation comes from the Virginia Manufacturers Association creating the best business environment in the United States for world-class advanced technology businesses to manufacture and headquarter their companies for maximum productivity and profitability, and CVS Health, helping people find their path to better health.

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  1. […] weeks following his graduation from WWRC’s Manufacturing Technology Training (MTT) Program. (Hear exciting interview with Austin on the VR Workforce Studio Podcast). He applied to three different companies, and had two solid job […]

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