Rachel Connell began a new chapter in her life this time last year when she started working at health supplement manufacturer Revive Active’s Mullingar plant.
The 26-year-old Castlepollard native is one of a growing number of people who are securing work through Down Syndrome Ireland’s National Employment Programme.
Twelve months into her first job, Rachel works three shifts a week on the production line and enjoys interacting with her colleagues and new friends at Revive, as well as getting paid for a job she loves.
A member of the Across the Boards performing arts group at Mullingar Arts Centre and a big fan of Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi and his friend from Mullingar Niall Horan, Rachel enjoys balancing her work commitments with her many outside interests and hobbies.
Liz Quinn, production manager at Revive Active’s plant in Lough Sheever Business Park, says her firm’s involvement in DSI’s National Employment Scheme has been a hugely positive experience.
“We are delighted to be involved with Down Syndrome Ireland. Rachel has really brought so much to our workforce. She comes in every morning with a smile on her face.”
Rachel’s contribution, however, extends far beyond her sunny disposition, Liz says.
“She is a great worker. It’s not just that Rachel is here, she is doing her job and it’s great.”
Rachel’s mother Deirdre Clogher says that since joining Revive Active’s team her daughter has thrived.
“It has given her new confidence and focus in her life. It’s important to her to be included and be part of a team; being just the same as everyone, going to work, being valued and most importantly being paid like everyone else, it does mean a lot to her.”
Entering the workforce has given Rachel increased her independence, says her proud mother.
“Even from a young age, she always wanted a job and always said that she wanted a paid job. It’s great to do work experience, but it’s important to be employed by a company that gives you real value.
“We were told right from the beginning with our involvement with Down Syndrome Ireland and the company that she got the job on her ability to work and to actually perform the tasks that she was asked to do.
“I am delighted that companies are beginning to realise the values and skills that people with Down syndrome and other disabilities bring to a workforce. They have been an unrecognised group of people for far too long.”
The DSI head of employment Aoife Gaffney says that people with Down syndrome want to work and “ represent a substantial source of untapped commitment and talent”.
“Companies who employ people with Down syndrome report that those employees are committed and motivated, and often only need an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. They take tremendous pride in their work and earning a wage, demonstrating unparalleled levels of loyalty to their employers.
“Not only that, but in our experience, they unintentionally add a new and welcome dynamic to staff morale and customer engagement. Their presence in the workplace is reflected by higher levels of patience, tolerance and goodwill within the existing workforce, while also indirectly, further developing the people management skills of team leaders and supervisors, as a result.
“The positive impact on the person with Down syndrome is substantial too. Working helps improve confidence, increase social connectivity and helps integrate the individual into the local community.”
When asked about her own experience of entering the world of employment, Rachel had two pieces of advice for people who would like to follow in her path.
To watch the video, click here.