- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Richard Erskine grew up with the dream of becoming a social worker, following in his mother’s footsteps. He saw firsthand how inspiring the work was and earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Westfield State. However, after his first internship, he realized the field might not be the right fit for him. Unsure of what was next, he reached out to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to help him with his job journey.
Working with MRC
Richard worked with MRC as an undergraduate to gain financial support for college. After graduation, he talked with his vocational rehabilitation counselor (VRC), Manuel Robles, and learned of MRC's job training programs. Richard met with Tara Raymond, a Job Placement Services team member. The Job Placement Services team specializes in connecting employers with the thousands of job seekers at MRC who are ready to start their employment journey.
"The first thing that stuck out about Richard was his good nature," Tara shared. "He understood to reach his goals; he was the captain of his ship." With Tara's guidance, Richard became interested in the Cisco Academy Cybersecurity Program. The program, which was the first of its kind in the state, is free and a cooperative effort with MRC and Holyoke Community College. The course is an intensive education and training program which focuses on preparing students to join the growing field of cybersecurity. Individuals who graduate from the program earn a certificate in cybersecurity from Cisco, a credential many employers in the industry look for when recruiting employees. "Richard gave 110% to be sure he was accepted into this program," Tara said, and sure enough, he was.
Just as Richard and his class began the course work, they and the rest of the world had to readjust as COVID-19 forced everyone to take a step back and reassess. "I had never taken part in a virtual classroom like this before," Richard said. At first, he found it very daunting. This was new for him subject matter and how they held the class virtually. Richard thrived, though. "The instructors were hands-on and did everything they could to prepare us for the program."
After graduating from the program, Richard returned to MRC to polish his resume and participate in practice interviews as he looked to find the right job. "I must have gone through more than 100 job applications, resumes, and cover letters," Richard laughed. "For a while, I didn't think I would find anything." But his hard work prepared him for another great opportunity that Tara and MRC were able to provide.
Tara recommended Richard apply for the Neurodiversity in the Workplace (NITW) program, which specializes in helping those who are Neurodiverse prepare themselves for the job interview process and start their careers. Tara said, "I knew if Richard were provided the environment to shine, he would excel, and that is exactly what he did," Tara added. The two-week program focuses on professional development and Richard met with hiring managers from Dell Technologies. "They brought in hiring managers who spoke to me. They called them reverse interviews," Richard remembered. "I could talk about some of the work I had done and the projects I had completed."
After the program ended, Dell Technologies offered him an internship that had the opportunity to lead to full-time employment. He began the internship in 2020, and a year later, his manager asked him to join the team full-time. "I was full of so much joy when she asked me to join the team. It made me feel like all the work I had put in meant something. I had accomplished this goal!"
Richard's career is in a new field, but he is eager to learn and continue his professional development. "I'm starting to understand more every day. Things are getting easier for me." He works on a team with fifteen other people, all of which are supportive and help him to understand his tasks and network with colleagues.
He added, "It never occurred to me to even think of this career path," but he's proud of his accomplishments. "MRC has been so supportive and has many resources to offer anyone looking for help. You need to put the effort in, but MRC is there to help you every step of the way."