Northwest Center helps connect people with disabilities to jobs in Seattle area

This year, the Seattle nonprofit is helping 700 people with disabilities find and retain jobs across the state, most of which are in western Washington.

SEATAC, Wash. — Many times, it can be hard for people with disabilities to find jobs that are the best fit — and to find companies that will accommodate different needs. More than ten percent of people report having a disability here in Washington state, according to the most recent census data. 

The most recent data from 2022 shows the unemployment rate for people with disabilities in Washington is more than double the overall unemployment rate. Northwest Center, a Seattle based nonprofit, is working to change that. 

This year, it is helping 700 people get hired into jobs and retain jobs. The group runs five different businesses that support and employ people with disabilities. 

One of those is Big Blue Truck, where Tevin Jenkins works as a utility driver out of the SeaTac warehouse. Big Blue Truck has around 250 donation drop boxes across Western Washington and Jenkins is one of the people who loads the donations into trucks.

“I’m about to hit my third year so far, on October 19,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins is known to have some of the highest productivity at the workplace, setting records for how many pounds of clothing he has bagged. His employers recognize him for his work ethic and for his focus on being the best he can be.

Jenkins said he has a disability, but that it does not hinder or worry him because his focus is on having a positive and productive mindset.

“Have goals, you know, how can I achieve goals? Also, how can I be consistent and how can I show a lot of effort on things?” said Jenkins of his thought process.

Jenkins has worked with Northwest Center for years and his job coach at the center connected him with Big Blue Truck. He started as a warehouse worker and now is a utility driver, a job he takes a lot of pride in. Northwest Center helped him get the right training and made sure it was a position where some of his best abilities would show through.

“They want to know what your goals are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and then what they can do. They’ll come out to you and provide services,” said Jenkins of Northwest Center. 

Jacob Sao, the operations manager at Big Blue Truck, said around 25% of their employees have a disability and it is all about finding where they fit best, as many have extra abilities.

“When placed in the right situation, it can make them extremely productive,” said Sao, of seeing employees thrive when they find the role that is best for them.

He said Jenkins is an example of that, constantly focused on doing the best work possible and striving to hit the maximum for every bag and trailer filled. Sao said it is always obvious when Jenkins is at work.

“This is a Tevin bag, this is a Tevin trailer,” said Sao, smiling. “The employee takes great pride in having the highest weights possible for those items.”

Jenkins said it is all about having a positive mindset and working as a team.

“It is just doing the best that you can,” said Jenkins.