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By Randy Greene, Production Manager of WCSW Production Services 

To the general public and to most manufacturers in Missouri, there continues to be a hidden world of Sheltered Workshops. There are approximately 80 Sheltered Workshops in Missouri. The term “sheltered workshop” has been used by the Department of Labor to describe facilities that employ people with disabilities exclusively or primarily. The term “sheltered” has been frothed with negative connotations. Most Sheltered Workshops are reworking their brands and images away from the negative stigma by using acronyms or changing their names altogether. The term “workshop” should not be confused with sweat shop. All workshops in Missouri go through several different forms of certifications in order to keep the “Workshop” status and funding. In fact, the i.e. 14C Certificate from the Department of Labor and the Certificate of Authority from the Department of Education both require Financial Audits and Safety audits. The yearly certification by DESE and the state make sure the facility and process are meeting the standards set by the state for workshops.

Over the last several years, many of the workshops in Missouri have undergone significant evolutionary changes. The workshop industry as a whole looks to be working on becoming more integrated and aligned with businesses rather than just a social program for those who need help. Increased operating costs and partner business outsourcing needs have pushed workshops to change and evolve. New equipment, larger buildings, better on time deliveries, better quality, increased ability to handle more types of work at larger volumes. Many of these changes are critical to the long-term health and growth of the workshops in order to continue to employ more people. Strictly relying on government and private funding is not sustainable for today’s workshops.

Things to consider when evaluating whether to partner with a local workshop
Are your labor costs higher than you would like? Do you occasionally have production errors that need to be reworked? Are there jobs that you have passed up because of room or employee constraints? Are there times in your production schedules that you need help processing work short term or long term? Workshops can help solve many short term and long term production needs. If you build a relationship with a workshop they can and will react quickly to process your work correctly as well as bring true value to your company. Some of the benefits to a business when outsourcing to a workshop, increased work opportunities, increased production, reduced labor costs, managing overruns, help managing fluctuations in production needs, help managing production errors, community good will, and increased profits.

What you should expect when working with a workshop
Your expectations should be the same as any other company you outsource with. It is a competitive world even for workshops and the workshops that understand you have money invested in product, time, and relationships with your customers, the greater the money the greater the risk. If you don’t feel the workshop understands this issue then maybe they are “not” the right workshop to partner with. When looking at prospective job the workshops will want to review the products and processes, they will need spec sheets and they need several contacts including your quality control.

How to connect with a workshop
To get a list of workshops in your area, visit This will bring up a list of workshops that are certified by the Department of Education. Several workshops will pop up in your area. Take a few minutes give them a call. Let them know the type of work you are looking to outsource. Any workshops that look to fit your needs set up a time to have them visit your facility. You will need to visit their work space to get a good idea of the volume they are able to handle and to evaluate their management team. The bid process is relatively simple, some workshops will want to complete time studies and evaluate the equipment needs. Then they will send you a bid and go back and forth to arrive at a price. Time is valuable for everyone in these processes other workshops would rather have you tell them what you need for the price on a job and then they can decide if they are able to do it.

The number one goal, for all “Sheltered” workshops is to provide a positive, productive, sustainable work place and to employ as many individuals with disabilities as possible. As a parent of a young lady who has been working at Warren County Sheltered Workshop for more than eight years, I have seen first-hand that Workshop employees benefit from the sustained work in a multitude of ways: personal value, pride in their work, purpose, social interaction, income, regularity, a place to feel regular, and the list goes on.

The Warren County Workshop has been in the town of Truesdale for over 40 years. Over the last year and a half we have made major efforts to become a more valuable asset to our business partners. We have more than doubled our production output and we are employing more than double the employees we had a year ago. We are always looking for new partners to work with, new production opportunities or other workshops to partner with. If you are looking for a new workshop to partner with we would love to talk. We have a positive productive environment; we concentrate on quality work and on time production deliver dates. For more information contact:

WCSW Production Services
Truesdale MO
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