The month of October designates a special time for many in the work force and on the job market. Because October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. And, the American Association for Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) celebrates it by sponsoring Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) in communities in every state and internationally. DMD exists to pair disabled students and job seekers with relevant employers who can help them develop their skills. DMD began in the White House in 1999, with just 36 students taking part. But today, DMD is now a national event, with thousands of employers, students, and potential employees, participating in the unique and enriching experience – one that mentor and mentee benefit from equally, in different ways. In essence, it’s all about employers and potential employees learning from each other. And, it is with this in mind that I interviewed Mary Taylor, HR manager of Cobb Vantress, in Wadesboro.
Although I was nervous and have my own disabilities to contend with, which edged primarily on the socially awkward side of things that day, Taylor’s friendly demeanor encouraged me to pull through, and I must say that I learned quite a lot from her insightful answers.
Taylor is the HR employment manager of Cobb Vantress, which she informed me is a solely-owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods. Tyson, being mainly a poultry company, means that Cobb Vantress is all about little baby chicks and the farms that house them.
“Our product is essentially a one-day-old baby chick. Here in Anson County, we have a hatchery and the production office. We have 21 farms here, in the Anson, Richmond, Union County area. And, with that, what we do is sell the one-day-old baby chicks,” said Taylor.
Taylor, who has been with Cobb for 10 years, is no stranger to diversity. After speaking with her a while, it becomes clear that she has a keen understanding. However, as she explains, this wasn’t always the case, at least not until she met some people from Vocational Rehabilitation.
“A lot of times, we’re so used to thinking that a disability is automatically someone in a wheelchair, someone who can’t function, (the stereotypes) … and Crystal (Shaw, VR counselor) has opened my eyes to the different types of disabilities. And, she has certainly shown me that just because a person does or doesn’t have a certain disability does not mean that they are completely functional (or not) in certain jobs,” said Taylor.
“With having farms and being around equipment in the hatchery, my biggest concern was, would someone get hurt in that area; would they fall, would they be able to get in and out of the houses, would they be able to follow all of our bio security? … So, we’ve had very big success with the candidates that they’ve sent us and that we’ve partnered with and think that they just doing wonderful job here with Cobb,” she said.
Of course, this would not be a proper article for National Disability Employment Awareness Month if I did not include something about the measures that this workplace has taken to be a diversity friendly, inclusive environment. And, as Taylor stated, an inclusive environment is essential to what Cobb stands for.
“Cobb and Tyson Foods are certainly very inclusive and diverse in our hiring processes. And, we have what’s called reasonable accommodation. We try and make any reasonable accommodation for our team members, depending on their needs,” said Taylor.
Job coaches and allowing designated days for extra help are just two of the ways in which Cobb responds to the needs of its employees. Taylor also suggests that Cobb’s flexible and inclusive environment has a lot to do with its mission as a company. “Because of what we do, we’re putting food on the table. We’re putting food on my table, on your table, and on the world’s table. Now, working with and partnering with Vocational Rehab is giving someone else an opportunity to earn the money to put food on their families table also,” she said.
If you would like to talk with Mary Taylor ,visit Cobb Vantress at: Cobb Vantress, 493 Anson Apparel Shirt Road, Wadesboro.