Two Iowans and two businesses are being honored today for their work to overcome challenges in finding work, barriers like physical or intellectual disabilities, mental illness and homelessness. In a video for the Iowa Job Honor Awards, Burlington repair shop owner David Dingman says he couldn’t be a mechanic fulltime due to a workplace injury so he hired recovering alcoholics, ex-cons, and people with little experience.
“I can’t wrench fulltime, I can’t do my job fulltime, but I can teach,” Dingman says. “There’s a few I’ve lost money on, very few. (It’s a) far greater value to take somebody, dust them off and give them a second chance than it is to blow them off in the beginning.” Dingman and his shop, T & D Repair, are among those being honored at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Conference, underway in Cedar Rapids.
The other employer being honored is Winnebago Industries in Forest City. It’s the first year for the awards. Program director Kyle Horn says he hopes it encourages employers not to judge applicants by their past or physical and mental disabilities. “If Iowa was inundated with quality candidates climbing in the windows, people with pristine pasts, then it would be difficult to convince employers to take a hard look at individuals who are unconventional candidates,” Horn says. “It’s time to entice them back into the workforce, because Iowa needs them.”
The two employee award winners are: Yvonne Rodriguez, who overcame homelessness to become an optometrist’s assistant in Sheldon, and Megan Dawson of Des Moines who participated in a Goodwill job training program and now works at Hy-Vee.