The Rod Early Story

Seven Months of Iron Will…From the Hospital Back to My Manufacturing Job

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Show Notes

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

Vanessa Rastberger is the Workforce Solutions Manager at the Virginia Manufacturers Association. Contact Vanessa at 804-643-7489 ext. 123.

Special thanks for Sally Murphy (vocals) and Richard Adams (recording and production) of the VR Workforce Jingle, composed by Rick Sizemore.


Transcribed by Doug Council.

Transcript for Rod Early Story.

This is the VR workforce studio, inspiration, education and affirmation   “AT WORK.”   The workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, A Division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Service. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our Foundation at and is available in iTunes and at You are listening to the vrworkforcestudio.

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And I broke down because that was the day that I knew I was going to be up. That I was going to get back up a get walking.

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Rick: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio we are on the Career Pathway to manufacturing with individuals with disabilities. I’m Rick Sizemore, Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.

Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow, Director of the WWRC Foundation and together we are…

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Rick: Uh, got to stop you Anne.

Anne: Oh, Ok.

Rick: Little quick story, Anne: Ok, This week I was at the Performance Management Summit in Richmond, VA with all the data analytics and VR leadership of the country and they had one central theme and that is to tell the story of vocational rehabilitation so I look in my pocket at your brand new, very flashy business card and I see this phrase and it hits me. The opening of our program where we say and together we are, you got to share this new phrase you came up with.

Anne: Oh, ok. It’s sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation and don’t you think that’s fitting?

Rick: That is the very essence of this podcast. You get the award for phrasing our podcast this week so, Anne: Aw well thank you, way cool, way cool so we have Rod Early talking about manufacturing on deck with his unbelievable story a 7 month journey from the hospital back to his manufacturing job and guess who rejoins us today, Vanessa Rastbeger from the manufacturing skills institute.

Anne: Oh great, so Rick it’s been almost a year since Vanessa has been here talking about manufacturing.

Rick: So let’s to a little rehab rewind.

Anne: Yes let’s go back to what she said.

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Vanessa: If we don’t increase the productivity of our workforce, industry is saying we won’t be here for the long term. That is very scary to me. If we don’t change our mindset and take action to insure our workforce has critical thinking and troubleshooting skills across a range of areas that we can validate. We are jeopardizing our global competitiveness

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Rick: She talked about reducing the skills gap and the interest gap for youth and getting them excited about manufacturing jobs.

Anne: Oh great, now we have two bright, young VR consumers who just completed the “Dream it. Do it.” academy. We’ll talk with them to see if we accomplished our goals with the academy.

Rick: We’ll we are also going to check in with Brett Vassey head of the Virginia Manufacturers Association as we look ahead to the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum.

Anne: Great well that’s exciting. Let’s get started with the Inspiration Showcase.

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Rick: Rod Early has worked in manufacturing his entire life and lots of various capacities. He currently works at Daikin Applied which is a member of the global air conditioning company Daikin industries. Daikin Applied manufacturers technologically advanced commercial HVAC systems for customer around the world. Daikin formally known as Daikin McQuay started back in 1924 and has an extensive history of developing new industry leading innovations and technologies.

Anne: Yes and if you live in the Shenandoah Valley you know this company well. Rod is a key member of Daikin’s team in Verona and has worked his way back into manufacturing over the past several months following a day when his life dramatically changed during a very unfortunate construction accident. Rod welcome to the podcast.

Rod: Thank you very much

Rick: It’s great to have you here Rod. Like most everyone on the podcast, there was a point in your life when your story of disability began. Can you take us back to the day of your accident and tell us what happened?

Rod: It was in June in 2013 umm… I was actually digging a ditch to put some power cable down with a friend of mine. We were parked on the top of my drive way which is real steep. We were pulling the straps off when the load got shifted and his truck started going down the driveway, Rick: Unexpectedly? Rod: unexpectedly. I jumped in and tried to stop it, tried to steer it and was just picking up speed it would not stop well across my road it can drop 40 feet or you could go 10 feet, you just don’t know so I choose to jump out of the truck at about three quarters of the way down and I landed on this bank on the side, unfortunately the trailer had gone on that side of the bank and it pinned me, crushed me and it kind of rolled me to a stop and it ended up breaking my spine in two places. I ended up with six broken ribs, a punctured lung, neck brace, and a serious laceration to my thigh which took about three skin grafts and I was lucky to be alive. I was transported with Pegasus to UVA and spent two weeks or more at UVA and ICU.

Rick: It must have been a bone chilling moment when you realized you had to jump up out of the truck.

Rod: Yes it was one of those second thoughts and in hindsight I’d of stayed in and road it out but uh the truck ended up not going in too far but, you know I had no idea knowing the weight on the back of the trailer and the truck itself. I just… in my mind it was going to go deeper and I thought I could hop on the bank with no problem, young man. It didn’t work out that way.

Anne: Wow, that’s terrifying. How did the accident affect you physically Rod?

Rod: I’m pretty much paralyzed. I can walk with my upper muscles on my thighs but I have no feeling in my feet uhh… can’t move my toes, have no calf muscles per say. Upper body, I’m fine. I can get around I’m just slow. I can’t go long distances but with the help of WWRC we just keep moving on, keep trying.

Anne: Right.

Rick: So you were almost killed in this accident and flown via Pegasus to the hospital. Tell us what happened in the days following the accident when you were in the hospital.

Rod: When I woke up, you know disoriented and everything, it was evident real quick that I couldn’t move especially with the ribs were probably the worst of the pain. Every time they had to roll me I had like six drains in my back, but they had to roll me every day and the ribs just tore me apart and then the neck brace and then I had like a big brace on my leg from where the skin graphs and they did not want that moving, they were worried about to blood clots and issues there. That was the biggest concern right away they already done the surgery and I just didn’t move for two weeks. They then shipped me to hill south. When I got there I wasn’t able to participate in any therapy because of the leg brace I still had on and the neck brace but they were able to teach me how to get from a bed to a wheelchair, Wheelchair to a bed and then we also right before I left they kind of taught me how to get in and out of a vehicle a little bit and basically nursed me back to health.

Rick: Were you aware of your surroundings during those first days. A lot of people we talk to don’t remember a month after a serious accident. Were you aware of what was going on?

Rod: I’ll tell you some story’s when you are on the drugs at first I thought I was in a foreign country and they were taking body parts. I’m calling my wife and asking her where am I and she tells me I’m at UVA and I’m like thank god they flew be back because I had no idea.

Rick: So you got oriented in a week or so maybe?

Rod: Yea, actually I was still on a lot of pain killers up until to the time I went to hill south, they kind of at first kinda brought me out and they did not want me to feel the pain immediately they would kind of bring me out of it and put me back in because apparently there was a lot of pain and ummm… I don’t remember a lot there it was, I know a lot of people took care of me a lot. My family, my wife was there night and day. I had the two surgeries once in my back and stuff and then they went back and did something I can’t remember what that was but a lot of that was a blur. I don’t remember a lot until I got to hill south and even that was still a lot of nursing, they had to do everything for me I mean I was flat on my back and at their mercy pretty much.

Anne: You know I can imagine that would take a toll, what was your lowest point emotionally.

Rod: When you are going through all of that you don’t think about that you’re thinking ok their just… their working on me, they’re going to get me better you’re not depressed because you’re just thinking, who’s coming in next to take the blood, what time are they coming to roll me over I got to get ready for or do I need the meds or don’t I you know I got to get off these things you know it just wasn’t my, Anne: a lot to think about, it was making me have bad dreams and everything. Just talking with the doctors, trying to get answers, am I going to be ok it’s hard to pull anything out if they don’t know, they don’t know how far you’re going to get back and what you’re going to get back.

Rick: So was there a point where you hit a low?

Rod: Yes, when I got released from Health South. My wife was a little upset when they releasing me so early. It was after; I forget I’m want to say five weeks I’m not sure on that but, she didn’t feel that I was ready. I was ready to go, get out of here I’ve had enough and when I got home and the finality hit and my wife had to go back to work. She was coming off cancer and kemo, that’s why we were putting the ditch in, it was for a hot tub for her but she had been off for months so she had to get back to work so we were kind of both, it was a crazy year but when I first got home this was that loneliness it was like everything stopped. First you’re getting all of the attention you got the nurses, the doctors, the family and then all of a sudden everyone is going back to their lives and you’re sitting there in the hospital bed and you got your chair there. My bother-in-law is there and he is building me a handicap shower at the house, so I have someone around but it’s just that ok is this my life. This is going to be it. I’m going to be in a bed and I’m going to be in that chair and I’m going to be watching TV and I’m going to be rolling around.

Rick: A lot of fear?

Rod: And it hit me it was uh.

Rick: It was tough time?

Rod: It was.

Anne: I can imagine.

Rick: Well was there a point where you started having some motivation thinking about their possibilities in the future.

Rod: One of the biggest emotional things that happened I met a lady named Diane Hess and she was with Continuum and she was my therapist and when she got there she was like how are you doing or whatever and she was like have you been up and I was like no they told me I wouldn’t be able to be up, I wasn’t ready to be up and she said well were getting up today and I looked at her like she was crazy and I said ok, whatever you say and then she asked me if I had a walker and I actually had some donated to me from friends of mine and stuff so I said yes there is probably three or four in there so she went in there so she went and got one and checked them and everything and she got me up that day and I think I took four steps and I broke down because that was the day, excuse me, that I knew I was going to be up. That I was going to get back up a get walking.

Rick: Powerful day.

Anne: Awesome.

Rod: Yep, after about a week she asked me if I had heard of WWRCs program and I told her no and she said that she used to work there and she knew a lady and that I would be a prime suspect or candidate for it and that she was surprised that I hadn’t been referred to it already and I said well maybe it’s because I didn’t do any rehab or they didn’t know anything on where I stood so she contacted a lady Tracy Toplowski and then she called me back and I was accepted into the program on an out-patient basis and I was actually coming here for one hour a day therapy and that’s where I met Kate Baxter I’ll call her my evil angel but from the day I met her she got me moving and we took those four steps and we knocked them into eventually three quarters of a mile which very rarely I do when I did walk and she was my inspiration and got me moving, got me going and she asked me if I would be interested in coming into the in-house program to basically stay here and get three hours a day therapy, two hours physical therapy and then work therapy, whatever you call it, Rick: Getting back on the job, yea therapy and so I decided to do it and once I got here and went through those three therapy’s a day I was in bed by seven o’clock that afternoon wore out but it is an intensive program and a lot of motivation. She kept me motivated there are times where you get down on yourself and she said goals from me and I was breaking those goals and that kept me, I’m a goal breaker. I have to break it or it drives me nuts and she was making them and I was breaking them within the week and she would make new ones and fusing at me because I was breaking them to fast and that inspired me even more to get that approval from her and we kept going and kept going and she just stayed in and Sonya from the other side, she taught me to do laundry and make beds and they taught me how to drive a lady named Mary, Anne: Your wife must have was happy about that, yes and actually I put a washer and drier in now and I do my own, I always have done mine before anyway so, I wanted to do that to take it off of her especially when I first got home everything was on her, you know it not only changed my life it changed my wife’s live too and now I do everything, she still does most of the cooking but I’m not gonna starve let’s put it that way and anything else around the house, I would do. The bed I can do, I can do the laundry and she has no problem telling me get up and get it yourself and so we’re at that point and you need that. You don’t use it, you lose it it’s that simple and you got to have that tough love too, yea.

Anne: So it looks like, it sounds like vocational rehabilitation at WWRC really helped you in your personal life but how also did it pave the way for you to get back to Daikin.

Rod: Well they got me back mobile whys they taught me to drive they go hand controls on my vehicle, got my license. That mobility is big they also took me out to get gas, how to get around the vehicle and get gas, the grocery store how to get around there and back to your cart, you know when you got a full cart you use the cart itself as a walker. Those types of things Kate drilled me on outside rocks, grass, inclines you know it’s nice inside the four walls. Everything’s safe, everything’s flat the world is not flat when you leave that door and you have, my biggest fear was curbs. I was scared to death of curbs and it was all in my head, it was mental and Kate knew it but she kept working me through it and working through it until she finally said, get that leg back and get it up there. I’d always catch my toe, then I would panic and that 110 pound lady catch me every time. I knew she was there she was my safety net but she taught me how to get over that fear and I had a big one there and that was one of my biggest hurtles. I can do steps, I can do rails but the curbs with just the canes I; it took me a little while to get over that. Now I have no issues but if you don’t learn that then it’s tough learning that on your own at first, you know everything your canes, grasses and as flat as it looks when you not worried about falling but when you have instability you make sure you exactly know where that cane is going when you put it down.

Rick: What we might mention. The foundation is involved in a project now to purchase a safegait system that could help people when they are trying to walk. It’s a suspension system that provides insurance when you want to take those risks so a little more about that in the program but let’s talk about the video that you were recently featured in uhhh… Larry Kroggel, who’s the HR manager out at Daikin, referred you in that video as a subject matter expert and that you’ve be able to really take on some different roles after your accident so tell us what you were doing at Daikin before the accident and what you’re doing now.

Rod: I’m an associate engineer technician there. I’ve been there for 29 years and basically I’m in the R and D setting. We take new products, innovative stuff that we haven’t released we do a testing; we do the qualifications of them. We make sure they are going to do before we release them, tear them down, blow them up, take them to the stream to see if they are going to last or not. A lot of computer work, a lot of electrical work, a lot of hooking up units there’s things I can’t do now when I come to hoses and stuff physically I’m not capable of doing that but they’ve bought me a ladder; it’s in close so I can get up into the drives and do my electrical work and component work. I can still hook up the units with the guys, I can still do all of the computer work and I’m more of a trainer at this point. I was always a technician for all these years and I’ve done pretty much every job on the plant but now I am more of a teaching role for the new technicians coming in or engineers that just don’t know anything about air conditioning and they will stick them back with us for a while to get their feet wet so I’m pretty lucky to be in that position.

Anne: That’s great, what changed did the plant have to make for you when you came back to work?

Rod: Kate and Sonya and, it was another lady but I can’t remember who but they traveled with to my plant and met with the safety lady and my human resources at that time and my supervisor and we walked through the plant, back to my office and everything and just kind of went over what it would take to get me comfortable in some things and what we saw coming up that would be issues for me. The plant went out of their way; they installed a automatic door opener back at the lab straight into our office, they gave me a parking spot right there to where I can get out and get to it, they bought me a electrical golf cart so if I’m dealing with customers on the other side of the plant I can drive out to it work with customers that we have maybe. A ladder like I said to get me around, around the units and up into stuff that I need to be around when I’m training or doing the work myself. So they went out of their way.

Rick: Not to minimize what Daikin did because they obviously gave you the accommodations you needed to be successful but they were not great expenses on the company. Seems like some minor things that really made a big difference and enabled them to keep you on the job.

Rod: Once they made a decision to work with me I mean even to this day if I need anything they pretty much; whatever you need rod they work with me on it. Money hasn’t been an issue, I try not to; I would rather do my job with fewer problems if I keep a low profile and do my thing and that’s what you want to do when you’re handicapped you feel like you are getting some of the attention you don’t want it. You just want to do your job and kind of settle on in and I’ve got great guys I’m working with I mean if I need anything they’re right there.

Anne: Well you obviously do job well and they must consider you a true asset, Rod: Thank you, to go to these great lengths.

Rick: So this is a great success story so what advice do you have for an employer who’s thinking of hiring someone with a disability?

Rod: I think what we did with Kate and all of them going to the facility walking through me, there were issues I noticed that day carpets rolling up on my walker, how far it was to the bathrooms if we had anything to any bathrooms luckily there was a nice handicapped in the facility, bathroom and stuff, but just talking to that individual about what his job is and the reality of what you can do and what you can’t do. There is a point when you say alright Rod I know you use to do this but you got to back off, you can’t do this any longer and then the other things you can and do safely in a plant situation you still have to remember safety’s first so not only for myself but to people I work with and I think just doing that one on one and getting ideas from both sides is defiantly valuable.

Rick: It’s a real partnership between business and industry and vocational rehabilitation that makes this possible and if that blink isn’t working this just can’t work but in this case obviously I did. You’re back at work and they have retained a valuable employee.

Rod: Yes sir.

Anne: You know Rod it sounds like such a process for you with all this but what advice would you give to someone who has a disability whose struggling.

Rod: There’s going to be some highs and there’s going to be lows. One of the things that I was surprised, I have issues now that aren’t with my back. There are other things that I have trouble with catheterization and it’s the mental side of that. You can fight the physical side, the mental side is tough sometimes and you’re going to have those up and down days it’s just part of it so you got to have that support group you know your wife, your family and everything else you’ve got to have that and a positive out… you got to remember that life goes on and you want to get the most out of it you know. I’m still, I’m lucky to be here so I’m going to take advantage of everyday that I can get on top of that you know and try to get back to what I was doing before and I’ve got three girls and a beautiful wife. I can’t complain and I have a job.

Rick: You started out with four steps and you wound up walking three quarters of a mile. That is a great accomplishment as you think back on that, what do you think the future holds.

Rod: I don’t know yet, you know. You hear people talk that you don’t know how much you get back totally it maybe five years, it maybe seven years. I saw a video on a guy that was eight years and took his first steps. When I was here Kate and I, she has a video I took eight steps. It wasn’t pretty as my wife said it looked like I was twerking or something but I made eight steps you know so I don’t know how far it’ll go. I’m hoping every day I get some more back and something get stronger and stronger. I don’t think there’s any saying what’s the end because I don’t know what that’s going to be. Hopefully I’d love to just walk one day just on my own and that’s not to say they are not going to come up with something to help in that to so there’s new innovations everyday so…

Anne: So now you were a golfer too. You’re going to get back to golf I hope.

Rod: Yea (Laughing), I love to golf

Rick: Your no stranger to golf at home, are you Anne?

Anne: Well, I try. My husband is a great golfer but umm… whenever we go out, I don’t count; I don’t keep score.

Rod: I don’t either half the time (laughing), Anne: So you and I can go out together sometime. I’d slow him up, I love the game and my father-in-law got me into it and later in years I use to play baseball, softball so it was natural I’d pick up golf next you know and I was at the point to where I was getting ready to try it with a bungee cord and the guys at work were engineers and trasfins so we started talking and I had a guy at work draw a sketch and is actually making a thing we hook on to the golf kart right now and it has a built and it’s almost like a weight built snaps in, holds me and has two little shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar and we’ve tried it out once but one of the pieces he made it out of was like a cast and broke so he machining a steel one right now. We’re going to try it out here in a couple of weeks.

Anne: That’s great well let us know how it goes because we can have a Daikin/WWRC tournament, Rod: Well there you go, I can see that happening.

Rick: Well and we’d love to get a photograph of that to put on the website.

Rod: I told my therapist down there if the kart doesn’t fall on me and I will bring her a video on how it goes after a few swings and see how it goes.

Anne: That’s great, well as you look on all this Rod. The seven month journey from a near death experience to being back at work and you know, what do you want people to know most about you and rehabilitation here at WWRC that has helped you, you know back to the work you love.

Rod: I guess the biggest thing is keeping that motivation. When I worked with Kate, we set those goals. When you leave here you set your own goals too I mean there’s things cause it’s easy to get complacent. It’s easy to take the easy route a lot of times you know, I still try to make it to at least once every two weeks to come here to therapy on the side to keep going and that’s not easy you know. It’s easy to do the easy thing I’d just sit and not keep trying but, it comes back to the people I mean the people here defiantly give you that inspiration to keep trying and keep pushing and I mean they when you are having an low day when I was here right before I was released, I had three weeks left and I was going back to work and Kate; I had a rough week I wasn’t breaking any records. I was getting through but wasn’t excelling at all and she could tell I was tried, I wasn’t feeling good and I kept telling her my back kept giving me trouble. Well she found a bump on my back and it was actually and infection that was on my spine so it delayed… they were going to have to open me up again from top to bottom and luckily when I went to the hospital, they went in with a camera and they found the infection and they were able to put a drain in my back and drain that infection and I had to go on a drip line for six weeks and a drain in my back and that pushed me getting back to work in December of that year so I made it through all of that so I made it through all of that stuff and I thought oh gosh here we go again so after that I came back to meet with Kate, my therapists here and we were going to do three weeks of just seeing, making sure I haven’t lost anything physically wise and endurance wise before I go back and within the first and second day I was actually meeting my goals that I meet before I left. I was tying those goals so we were happy about that, that I didn’t lose anything thank goodness they didn’t have to open me up again. The drains and the antibiotics work so that pushed me back a month so that’s why I got back in, I guess it was February for that year.

Rick: Rod you are the man with the iron will to succeed. ¯Music transition¯ We’ve enjoyed talking with you. You are an inspiration to everyone and we wish nothing but the greatest success in the future, thank you for being here on the podcast.

Rod: Thank you.

Anne: Thank you, Rod.

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Rick: Vanessa Rastbeger is the workforce solutions manager at the Manufacturing Skills Institute. Nice to have you back in the studio Vanessa.

Vanessa: Thank you Rick, I’m glad to be here today.

Rick: So Vanessa welcome back to the VR Workforce Studio Podcast. Great to have you here it was almost a year ago when you and Katherine DeRosear and we recorded our first podcast on manufacturing and I was listening to you through the monitors. You sound fantastic so many people get started they’re first couple of podcasts they’re nervous but you sound great.

Vanessa: I feel nervous but…

Rick: Well we had to change the studio around a little bit since you were here.

Vanessa: Maybe because you were in a different room. It’s just different. Feels more professional.

Rick: Well at any rate were glad you’re here. Let’s talk about Rod Early.

Anne: Vanessa you’re so very focused on helping manufactures maintain their talent pools what was it like for you to hear vocational rehabilitation helped a guy like Rod to get back to work.

Vanessa: Rods story was a compelling one. My main reactions with Rods interview was hope. That things are possible if you keep moving forward. He talks about motivation that a lot of people take the path of least resistance but his message to me was that if you overcome the fear, to try new things and invest in yourself the future is wide open to all kinds of opportunities, especially that may have seemed at one time impossible.

Rick: Vanessa, you and I had a great day together on June 2nd when you came up to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Centers part of our showcase for the “Dream It. Do It.” Academy in our MTT program. What was it like to be in the mist of all that excitement that day?

Vanessa: Rick it was a great day. I was very proud to be there. I had been working with you all for some time to get ready for the academy when I came in I was not surprised to see a lot of people there.

Rick: There were a lot of employers, business people, business development managers, a lot of folks there. There’s a tremendous buzz about this partnership.

Vanessa: Yes and I walked in. I was so impressed with what I was seeing and what had been accomplished that week and I was very impressed also to hear from some of the participants. They really seemed like they were very proud of themselves, they seem very engaged, very proud of their instructor and seemed like they were really happy that they had come to the academy that it made a very positive impact which I’m sure that will be lasting for them.

Rick: I think we had almost seventy people actually in the new MTT classroom. How would you describe the classroom setup and the teaching methods of the academy?

Vanessa: I thought it was very intriguing. I have told many people about what your all are doing and no one has any doubts on Jim Leech’s qualifications to teach the academy and also the MTT program. I thought what you did was unique. You didn’t just use the “Dream It. Do It.” curriculum that you could have used but you created your own and I thought what you all did was innovative and just something that really made the students feel like they were building something. That was really unique.

Rick: They got their hands involved in what’s going on. What did you think about the purification unit that the students constructed in the whole manufacturing setup.

Vanessa: Yea I was like I said very impressed. I thought they defiantly seemed to know a lot more about manufacturing maybe in that week.

Anne: So Vanessa, we have David and Sarah here with us today having just completed the “Dream It. Do It.” academy welcome David and Sarah. So let me ask you David how well did the manufacturing academy introduce you to modern manufacturing.

David: Yea you guys did that very, very well. It seemed just like an actual plant but on a very small scale.

Anne: Great and Sarah you worked on the line in the academy, what was your job?

Sarah: Yea my part was to be a bottler which means I put the water in the bottle and I send it no down the line for the next person to cap it.

Anne: I understand you went on some field trips, what was your favorite site visit?

Sarah: Going to the Hersey plant.

David: I saw rows upon rows upon even more rows of conveyer belts and chocolates and my mom eats the heck out of some almond joys and now I can have some bragging rights that I saw them being made.

Rick: So David you spent five days learning what manufacturing is really like what surprised you most about the program here at WWRC.

David: I wasn’t expecting the educational part of it. I thought they were just going to give us a brief rundown of the machinery and just throw us in but no it’s very in depth and it actually teaches you about the history of manufacturing from where we were to where we are now.

Sarah: Well here they actually take the time and go over everything with you and make sure that you understand what you are doing and at a high school they usually have to 40 kids or 30 some in a classroom and they really aint got the time to take to help you understand so they just keep going and going and just hope that you’ll catch up.

Anne: These academy’s and our MTT training at WWRC are all part of the career pathways for individuals with disabilities initiative. Can you talk a little bit about you disability and how the academy helped you?

David: Well my disability is I have ADHD really bad. It’s hard for me to sit still in one location for long periods of time and what my job at the factory was quality control at my assembly line it was my job to inspect the bottles coming in but to me that didn’t seem like a job it just felt like something I wanted to do so it really picked me up and gave me something that I would enjoy doing so instead of me drifting off and either falling asleep like I usually to in class and today it was very, very fun and kept me entertained while I worked.

Sarah: Well my disability is that I am a slow learner and basically means like you can stand there and talk all day it tries to go in one ear and out the other.

Rick: So Sarah did the way we teach this academy help.

Sarah: Very much helpful because you show me one time and I’ve got it.

David: I think this academy shows if since we get a certificate whenever we accomplish something I feel like that will be something to prove to employers that hey we are very qualified workers and we are willing to work for you and we can be very good skilled workers once we get our mind set up.

Rick: Sarah and David thank you so much for your incredible comments. Any final thoughts from you Vanessa on our academy?

Vanessa: So that’s what the “Dream It. Do It.” academies and camps are all about is to really engage young folks about different careers and realize they could be successful and give it a try. Once they’re done with the academy, they move on to the MTT training hopefully and once they have those nationally recognized credentials it really does send a signal to manufactures that these folks are trainable, they don’t give up and they have some of the skills they want to hire and I think that’s a good thing for folks particularly if they have trouble communicating that themselves. The credentials speaks very loudly as far as the talent that they are.

Rick: Thank you Vanessa, we want to finish up now with a look ahead to the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum that will be held in Williamsburg on November 10th and 11th and some comments from the head of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, Brett Vassey.

Brett: The 5th annual MSI Workforce Development Symposium will continue the VMAs work on building a reliable talent pipeline for industry and a career pathway for future workers. We’ve committed the last decade to closing the skills and career planning gaps. This commitment requires attention to a work ready and industry ready workforce. Industry recognized credentials are the way forward and this year’s symposium we’ll further explore those solutions. One in particular will be expanding industry’s understanding of recruiting from a pool of talented individuals with disabilities. We’ll be breaking down physical barriers and intellectual barriers to gain a better understanding of the possible. This will include unveiling our new program with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services for auditing the physical spaces of manufacturers for placing people with disabilities in those spaces with adaptive technology. This may be the first of its kind of commitment between the disability community and manufacturers. We hope this is the first step in a great success for a future program.

Rick: Brett it is always a pleasure to work with you and the great staff at the Virginia Manufacturers Association…. we’ll see you in Williamsburg on November 10th and 11th for the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum.

Brett: Rick we appreciate the partnership with DARS. This has been a fantastic relationship. We know that this symposium will be one of the bright stars in our very near future together and thank you for the opportunity to work together.

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Rick: Anne this has been a great show.

Anne: It has, it has.

Rick: I was so inspired to listen to David and Sarah talk about their future in such affirming and optimistic ways. I believe these two will be working in manufacturing within the next three months and that is tremendously exciting. I think this gives life to the new tagline.

Anne: Oh I agree, I think they will be incredibly successful in sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation certainly rings true here.

Rick: Maybe you would like to share your own courageous story of vocational rehabilitation. You can contact Anne or myself at the website at look in the show notes you’ll see all of our contact information. We’d love to hear from you.

Anne: That’s right Rick and if you would like to find out more information about the WWRC foundation we invite you to visit our website at to find out how you can help.

Rick: I’m Rick Sizemore.

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Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow.

Rick: Sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation

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Vrworkforcestudio, inspiration, education and affirmation   “AT WORK”   The workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, A Division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Service. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our Foundation at and is available in iTunes and at

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