Nonprofit Spotlight: High Sierra Industries Brings Pilot Program to Renown


Individuals with Disabilities Gain Real Work Experience at Renown’s Sterile Processing

Employees at Renown Health’s Sterile Processing enter the work place every day wearing scrubs with caps and booties. They deliver clean and sterile medical instruments to hospitals and clinics on time, following best practices and strict, industry procedures. For a person with an intellectual disability participating in career development with Renown, suiting up is essential to the overall experience.

The opportunity for these individuals to work at Sterile Processing is made possible by High Sierra Industries (HSI). The company has developed a pilot program — soon to be launched as Career Development Academy NV (CDA-NV) — which places students with intellectual disabilities in real work environments with competitive jobs. According to Lavonne Brooks, executive director at HSI, it’s the type of learning opportunity that simply cannot be gained in the classroom.

“Students view Renown as a team of helping professionals,” Brooks explains. “The opportunity to become part of this prestigious team, even for a few hours, [gives them] pride in their work — often for the first time,” she continues. “The experience of doing a real job is something many of us take for granted.”

The individuals working at Sterile Processing are divided into teams of five, with each team supported by job coaches. They instruct the students on work place etiquette and teach them how to assess and monitor their own work. Brooks asserts that the participants who learn self-management skills have a greater chance of succeeding in a competitive work environment.

For its part, Renown looks forward to continued collaboration with HSI’s program. The company is learning to refine the program to fit its needs and provide participants achievable goals that run parallel with Sterile Processing’s standards and procedures. “My crew gained an appreciation for individuals in the community who have disabilities,” remarks Paula Price, Sterile Processing manager, Renown Regional Medical Center. “We enjoyed the smiles on their faces as they received recognition, and the HSI coaches were wonderful role models.”

Brooks views HSI’s program as different from other approaches because it begins with employer collaboration. And Renown is one of few companies that willingly works directly with HSI to identify jobs and tasks within the company that align with students’ skills, with the hope that these experiences can translate into permanent positions for program participants.

“Our students are treated like employees, which is essential to their development as they gain authentic [work] experience,” Brooks affirms. “We look forward to our continuing collaboration with Renown and achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.”