Surviving in the working world requires skills most people take for granted. In Omaha, young adults with a disadvantaging condition get the chance to hone these skills from ages 19-21 with the OPS Transition Program and Goodwill's Work Experience.
Both Ian Varner and Marcos Soto are enrolled in the program for a second year. They work behind the scenes at Goodwill, earn minimum wage, and learn a valuable skill-set from the program's trainers.
"We got past a lot of the basics last year. We're still working on staying on task and avoiding distractions, but this year Ian knows what he has to do, and we're building more of a social relationship and how to interact at work," says trainer Christina Dougherty.
The supervisor from OPS says the goal of the program is to prepare the participants to be productive and responsible citizens.
"These kids are learning that 'Oh, there's a consequence'," Shana Frodyma tells WOWT. "When they come to Goodwill, if they do not show up and don't call in, they're going to get reprimanded. Luckily, it's a learning situation for them and not just an ultimate 'You're done'."
Soto works at Walmart part-time. He says some of the most valuable skills he takes away from Work Experience include "Always call in. Always be on time. Help other people that they need it." He'll proudly share that those skills earned him a promotion from store greeter to cart pusher.
"He's become a lot more comfortable talking to managers and people who are in charge of him," trainer Taylor Johnson says of Soto. "He'll tell us, 'I had this conversation with my manager, and this is how it went'. So he's doing things completely independently."
Varner holds a job at HyVee, working the last couple years bagging groceries. Starting as a shy teenager, Varner now tells us his favorite part of the job is interacting with customers, coworkers, managers and bosses.
"He had a really good personality. I could tell after talking to him that he was super quiet, but once you got to know him, he was just a really nice kid and I figured if we could work with him a little bit to show that to other people that we could make something out of it, "says HyVee Manager Jack Stortenbecker. "He's changed a lot. He's much more outgoing, much friendlier with customers, and a lot healthier than he was back then."
"You do see the lightbulbs come on," says Frodyma. "When you hear that from them, you get emotional knowing you've made a difference."
Both Varner and Soto will complete the Transition Program this year. At that time, they earn their high school diploma. Varner tells us he'd like to stay with HyVee until retirement "at the age of 60." Soto would like to go to college and become an auto mechanic.