Following Sunday’s op-ed in the Erie Times News, I thought that I might share a mom’s perspective on employment. Ryan began volunteering at Bello’s Market, a family-owned grocery store and meat market in Erie, during high school. As with any “new” volunteer, there were “ups and downs” as he became familiar with the job and its expectations. Upon graduation, Mr. Bello asked him if he would be interested in continuing his work as a paid, part-time employee.
Of course, Ryan’s first response was, “Definitely, yes!” Like any of us, Ryan values his paycheck as the key to being able to enjoy his favorite activities, such as bowling, skiing, going to lunch, and going to the movies. So, Ryan began two mornings a week. As he became more proficient in his job, Mr. Bello asked him to work three mornings a week. Again, Ryan was really excited – more hours equal more money! And he still could go out to lunch and report to work at the Barber National Institute by 11:30.
Now, four years later… Mr. Bello recently asked him if he would be able to increase his hours two mornings a week. Surprisingly, Ryan’s first response was, “No!” I couldn’t understand why he would say no, given his excitement about additional hours in the past. Later that night, I asked him why. He quickly responded: “If I work more hours, I can’t go to lunch or I’ll be late for work at BNI.”I explained to him that his hours at BNI could be adjusted so that he could work the additional hours and still have time to go to lunch. He was thrilled to realize this and promptly Mr. Bello “Yes!” the next day.
Ryan’s unexpected initial reply prompted me to think more about the concept of Employment First. Many years ago, I learned that you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole, whether that is in education or the work force. While our goal remains to secure meaningful work for all individuals, we first need to consider the individual’s wants and needs; a full-time job may or may not be the best fit for everyone. I believe Ryan is a great example of that: he thoroughly enjoys working two part-time jobs – but also, treasures the lunch in between them!