Work Training Center
In a national-park gift shop, a tourist buys a colorful cotton tote bag. At the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, a shopper picks up a gift pack of mustard attractively packaged in a small wood crate.
These products share a common tie: Both involved the labor of Work Training Center clients.
Production sewing and woodshop products are only two of the many elements of the Work Training Center. Organized in 1949 and incorporated in 1960, the Work Training Center (WTC) is dedicated to meeting the training, vocational and recreational needs of local adults with disabilities. The Work Training Center currently serves 750 people.
Lee Laney, Work Training Center resource development manager, says that vocational programs are at the core of what WTC does, but that the organization has grown beyond that.
“We tailor our services to meet the needs of each individual, regardless of their disability, and we have programs that can meet the needs of just about every person with a developmental disability, from severe to minimal,” Laney explained. “We provide very intensive services for someone who requires constant supervision, and on the other end of the continuum we can provide services to support people in their competitive employment, in their independent living and in their quality of life.”
WTC vocational centers include Fair Street Recycling, Deer Creek Sewing, Feather River Industries, North Valley Assembly and Prestige Landscape Services.
Laney says that while most of the Work Training Center’s activities have a vocational element to them, not all disabled persons will necessarily benefit from vocational programs. Social, communication and behavioral skills are emphasized at WTC’s Joe McGie Center in Chico, Creative Learning Center in Paradise and Sierra Center in Oroville.
In response to the general trend of community integration, the Work Training Center always looks for opportunities for its clients to be on site in local businesses.
One way Work Training Center clients are integrated into the workplace is through the use of “enclaves,” where an experienced supervisor assists a work group. Enclaves are currently in place at Maisie Jane’s California Products and Mountain Fruit Company.
Clients are also placed in businesses in the community through WTC Employment Services, formerly known as Jobs R Us. Through this supported-employment service, a WTC job coach trains the employee on the requirements of the job. While the employee is hired at the regular wage, businesses benefit by reducing the high labor costs associated with absenteeism and employee turnover.
Laney says the WTC has plenty of capacity to take on more work. He encourages local business people to consider using Work Training Center clients for their job openings.
“They don’t even have to come us with a clear idea of what they want,” Laney says of employers. “We’ll come in and inspect the workplace and see what we think we have to have to offer. We really just need to have a receptivity on the part of people to consider what we might have. We really depend on the community to generate the work.”
In terms of the number of people getting a paycheck, combining staff and WTC clients, the Work Training Center is the fifth-largest employer in Butte County. While 70 percent of its funding comes from the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and the Far Northern Regional Center, 25 percent comes from its business enterprises.
Despite its nonprofit status, Laney says the Work Training Center downplays fund-raising.
“We always want to portray our clients as contributing members of the community. We always want to portray our clients with dignity. And fund-raising tends to work counter to that. When you’re doing fund-raising, you’re putting yourself and your clientele in a dependency mode, and that’s contrary to our mission."