Inclusive employment is Ted Brown’s passion. His son has spina bifida, a condition that has impacted his learning and cognitive abilities, and Ted’s dream is for his son to work for Toyota.
A champion of inclusivity, Ted was first inspired by Diversity and Inclusion’s benchmark program at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK).
There, TMMK partners with local community programs to bring individuals with cognitive disabilities to work on the floor in a protected enclave, providing a learning environment to help develop work and communication skills — positively impacting their quality of life.
Making It Happen
Ted knew immediately he wanted to implement working enclaves at his location, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI). So, with the support of his leaders, Ted partnered with ARC of Gibson County, an organization that helps persons with disabilities realize their goals of learning, living and working in the community. TMMI and ARC welcomed a small group of individuals with cognitive disabilities to join two enclaves on the production floor to assemble door switches, jack packages and several clamp assemblies for the Sequoia, Sienna and Highlander.
After assembling four million parts with zero defects, people started to take notice, and Ted wondered if they could do more. Ted wanted every individual to have the opportunity for growth and development as a team member.
With the approval of TMMI leadership, in 2016, Ted launched a transition program, working with ARC to help develop strong team members who could be placed directly into employment, earning livable wages and being proud members of a team.
The program involves two enclaves: The first as a safe introductory workplace to allow those sensitive to sights, sounds and smells to get acclimated to a production floor environment. Here they learn the skills needed to assemble parts. The second enclave is a transitional training center where quality of standards and timing are implemented, and participants must work a certain number of months and reach certain standards to then begin the hiring process.
Thus far, 12 individuals have been placed in jobs on or around the TMMI campus. One member, John, is autistic and first entered the program rarely speaking with anyone.
Recently, when Ted traveled to Evansville, Indiana, to share TMMI’s community partnership with other companies, he asked John to come along and share his experience.
Much to Ted’s amazement and delight, John showed up with a handwritten speech and spoke in front of the group of 30, telling them all about his “super ability, autism” and how Toyota helped him “learn how to pick parts and build parts.” It was a rewarding and inspiring moment for Ted and an affirmation that the program was making an impact.
Ted believes, “Diversity helps drive and sustain our business, but we also need to ask how we can make our programs highly inclusive — because you cannot have diversity without inclusion.”