During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are saluting people who have stepped ahead, above and beyond in the name of equitable opportunity and employment for people with disabilities.

In a time of worker shortages and employment uncertainty, actively attracting and hiring people with disabilities is a way to recruit a dedicated workforce, boost DEI efforts that benefit everyone, and enhance overall business success by adding different perspectives and ways of thinking.

Meet Austen Brown
MDI location: Cohasset
Hometown: Bovey
Job title: Job Coach
Started working at MDI: 2016

Everyone has their own unique strengths and skillsets – things they are both good at and genuinely enjoy doing. When Austen Brown, job coach at MDI’s Cohasset facility, thinks about his strengths and interests, he knows pretty quickly: He’s a helper.

“My favorite thing about my job is helping people who need and want help,” said Austen. “I get to give people products to fold, help with wires and clips, and guide employees through training and coaching on the floor.”

After beginning his work at MDI in 2016, Austen was part of the first Career Skills class cohort. He took two sections of the work skills classes, learning valuable interview skills, proper workplace conduct, and people skills – including how to communicate with coworkers, use body language to de-escalate situations, and direct coworkers in helpful ways. Classes also covered how new employees can positively impact teamwork by leveraging their unique, individual abilities.

“Because of my participation in the Career Skills program, I know how to handle my emotions and understand that what people say and how they say it doesn’t always match what they mean,” said Austen. “Knowing this has helped me be the best employee I can be in my role as a job coach!”

Austen encourages coworkers who would like to improve their job situation at MDI to enroll in the Career Skills course. It is what gave him the opportunity to move up in the company quickly and has led to benefits like learning new skills and improving his financial situation. His recent promotion to job coach is what made it possible for him to purchase his first home!

Overall, Austen enjoys working at MDI because of its environment (“it’s serious and not-so-serious at the same time”) and the people. Knowing he has the support and resources available to him at MDI makes it feel less stressful than other jobs would be.

“Knowing that people support me in what I do every day gives me the confidence in being able to do my job and has helped me open up more,” said Austen.