NC group helps people with disabilities find work, gain independence
Posted November 25
Updated December 2
Clayton, N.C. — When a cognitive disability kept Nathan Patterson from working, a group of coaches and supporters in Clayton helped him find a job and become independent.
Last November, Nathan Patterson was unemployed. He wanted to find a job, but he'd been stymied in the past.
Patterson got his hopes up when a family member recommended him for a position at Structural Coatings, a plant in Clayton. The job looked promising, but Lydia Walton, a manager at Structural Coatings, was concerned about Patterson's lack of experience in the field.
"I thought he would be a good fit, but it was a little surprising to see someone apply who had no previous work experience," she said.
That's when Patterson turned to NC Works for help. At a career center in Clayton, Patterson worked with a job training specialist to gain the skills he needed to become an employee at Structural Coatings and to change his life.
"I am so proud of Nathan," said Tristann Jones, a career counselor at NC Works. "He came in here in January determined to build a life for himself."
Jones worked for months with the state's vocational rehabilitation division to help Patterson learn the skills he needed to work in the shop.
Structural Coatings gave him the chance, and Patterson is succeeding. At work, he helps move and cut large materials, and his coworkers see him as an irreplaceable part of the team.
"I've said it before, but I wish we could hire 10 more people just like him," said Brent Tharp, another employee at Structural Coatings. "There's only one Nate."
The experience with hiring Patterson has been so successful that Structural Coatings recently hired another person with a similar disability. Now, they work with job coaches at N.C. Works to get vocational training for employees.
Patterson and his coaches are thrilled that he changed the course of his life in less than a year. "He's no longer a number in the system," said Walton. "He's a working, full-time, contributing, great employee."
"It feels awesome to have a job and make money," said Patterson. "It's great to have your own place and do what you want with your own money and have no one tell you what to do."