MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
14 men and women with mental and physical disabilities were given a rare opportunity to “try on” various occupations during the fourth annual Protégé Day at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, June 22.
“The air station is one of the biggest employers in the area,” said Michael Arkin, equal employment opportunity manager with the Equal Opportunity Office at MCAS Cherry Point. “[Protégé Day] gives those with disabilities an opportunity to see what it is like to work at the air station, and gives them an experience to take away with them.”
The protégé’s came from the local Vocational Rehabilitation Service Offices in Craven and Carteret counties. Additionally, Protégé Day gave the job shadowers an opportunity to meet with professionals in their desired career fields in order to gain a better understanding of civilian jobs available at the air station.
“The vocational rehabilitation centers provide us with individuals who are motivated and interested in working, and we provide the potential job opportunities,” said Arkin.
Volunteers gained hands-on experience in multiple job fields such as heavy equipment operation, engineering, information technology, housekeeping, contracting, culinary arts and maintenance.
“I love working with computers, so I hope I can get a job working with them on the base,” said Thomas Gianatti, a participant in Protégé Day.
“Mr. Gianatti was very interested and enthusiastic in learning about software,” said Shyrel E. Windland, field services contractor with the Telecommunications and Information Systems Department.
Since the introduction of Protégé Day in 2013, the equal employment office has helped five individuals with disabilities receive and retain jobs on MCAS Cherry Point.
Now that Protégé Day is over this year, employers at the air station will have a knowledge base of the qualified disabled individuals in the area so they can fill new job openings in a timely manner.
“I have talked to some of the supervisors of the men and women that have been hired through the program, and it has been reported that they are some of the best employees aboard the air station,” said Arkin. “They are willing to do what is required of them, have few to no absences and become a model employee for everyone else because they want to work.”