Podcast Episode 43. “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right,” according to Henry Ford: this week’s podcast guest Marjorie Madfis clearly believes this to be true. With Yes She Can Inc., Marjorie has not only created employment opportunities for her own daughter, but she has also created a training process which other parents can use to help their children develop better employability skills. In essence, by using the same processes she has used, you too could create a sustainable business to help young people with additional needs to gain work.

Marjorie starts off by explaining why she started Yes She Can Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young women with autism spectrum disorders develop transferable job skills. Marjorie watched as her own daughter received job skills training which simply wasn’t fit for purpose and which wasn’t teaching the right job skills that would help her to get a job.

Her daughters’ dream job was working for American Girl, a doll production company, so Marjorie decided to help her daughter go towards achieving her dreams by opening a store which resold used American Girl merchandise. Once she realized that it wasn’t only her daughter who needed a space to develop job skills she turned her business idea into a non-profit organization, focusing on helping young women on the autism spectrum develop transferable job skills

Marjorie talks about the importance of having a “proof of concept” trial. She started out small and got professionals involved, including social workers, psychologists, and occupational therapists. Once the trial was successful, she was then able to scale up quickly to have a “Girl Again” retail shop along with a connected training program.

Marjorie talks about the training program and some of the challenges for the young women on the program. In particular, the need for them to realize that their work isn’t always about them. It’s about the customer and satisfying someone else’s needs before your own. Marjorie talks about how her own daughter struggles with prioritizing the immediate customers’ needs over other tasks she had already begun. She also explains the kind of skills that the young women learn from data input to phoning customers to writing marketing materials.

She also talks about why a reselling business is an ideal route for training young people with additional needs. She explained how a business like this has a variety of job roles which other businesses might not have, from sorting stock to online selling. This enables young people to develop a much broader range of skills than other types of work might. In addition, as with her daughter, the right kind of business can enable young people to work in a business they are genuinely interested in. Marjorie also talks about her belief that training programs need to have qualified professionals, such as occupational therapists and psychologists, actively included in the design and delivery of any training rather than less qualified training providers. She argues that professionals have a much better understanding of why behaviors occur, and so can help develop long-term strategies to help the young person developing coping skills in the workplace. This ultimately helps the young person.

She also explains very well why we all need to think differently about the job options for our young people. As she explains the job market has become more generalized. Organisations want flexible employees that can carry out several or more tasks. Why? Because businesses aren’t in the business of employment. As Marjorie puts it, they want as few employees as possible. This means that one of two things need to happen young people need to develop a variety of skills which is what the Yes She Can Inc. program aims to do. Alternatively, as Marjorie also suggests we need to find smaller employers who have a job role which matches the core skills of the individual.

Marjorie also discusses how the model developed at Yes She Can Inc might be replicated how the processes used and best practices developed could be taken by other parents and professionals and used across any reselling business.

Like many parents/carers of a child with additional needs, Marjorie is on a crusade to change perceptions about what young people with additional needs are capable of in the world of work. She has created a model and process which we can all use as a guide to our efforts to change our young person’s work future.