State Legislators Visit Digital Technology Partners for Take Your Legislator to Work Day

Digital Technology Partners hosted three Georgia legislators on Wednesday, November 13th, 2019 at our Conyers, GA headquarters for the first of two visits for 2019’s Take Your Legislator to Work Day: Representative El-Mahdi Holly (District 111), Representative Doreen Carter (District 92), and Senator Tonya Anderson (District 43).

DTP Owner/CEO Jonathan Kendrick gave a presentation covering the inspiration for Work4Eli, which is a recycling department within Digital Technology Partners that employs adults with special needs. Work4Eli was inspired by Jonathan’s son Eli, who has Down Syndrome and Autism, and Jonathan’s planning of Eli’s future. Jonathan also introduced two problems: the e-waste epidemic, and the surprising statistic that only 20% of Georgia’s adults receiving services from an a state Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) agency are served in integrated employment (compared to Washington’s 87%).

Integrated employment is more than simply providing a job to an adult with special needs; integrated employment requires the employment to take place in a community setting, where the employee is competitively employed and paid, and the employee is supported in a variety of ways. As opposed to other employment settings special needs adults often take on, such as medical day care programs or volunteer experiences, Digital Technology Partners’ Work4Eli department is an example of integrated employment. Work4Eli employees work part-time at Digital Technology Partners, and receive competitive pay and annual performance reviews with the opportunity for pay raises. Digital Technology Partners also provides a support system for Work4Eli employees, including job coaching, work mentors, and family involvement. The Work4Eli team is simply another department within Digital Technology Partners. For example, all Work4Eli staff members attend a weekly lunch meeting, where all company departments share updates with the team.

Deborah Hibben, mother to Work4Eli E-Waste Technician, Hannah Hibben, serves on the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, the state’s leader in advancing public policy on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities and key advocate for Take Your Legislator to Work Day. Deborah explained the four primary employment settings for individuals served by state IDD agencies, including: integrated employment, community-based non-work, facility-based work, and facility-based non-work. Deborah also presented the legislators with information from a case study, “Pushing the Integrated Employment Agenda: Case Study Research in Washington State,” to further dive into what Georgia can learn from Washington’s success.

The key points include:
1. A coherent values base
2. A clear focus on employment outcomes at the county level
3. Flexible, outcomes-oriented funding
4. Consistent investment in training and technical assistance
5. A strong network of leaders.

Work4Eli Director Shawn Adkins wrapped up the presentation by explaining how the Work4Eli department fits into Digital Technology Partners, in that Work4Eli closes the loop for our customers’ hardware. DTP’s clients purchase equipment, we pre-configure and deliver it, provide ongoing support through the years, and finally, when it’s time for new equipment, we securely recycle the old hardware in-house, while providing employment to special needs adults. Shawn shared the Work4Eli process, and the impressive achievements by the team in just over a year; as of November 13, 2019, the Work4Eli team has recycled 50,176 pounds of electronic waste.

Following the presentation, the legislators visited the Work4Eli lab, where E-Waste Technicians Hannah Hibben, Mandie Potts, and Arianna White demonstrated how to break down computers and safely remove data from hard drives.

Digital Technology Partners plans to host a second Take Your Legislator Day visit on December 11th, 2019 with more of our local representatives. We thank our visitors, and look forward to closing the integrated employment gap in the state of Georgia.