Tony Farinella and his lifelong friend, Kevin Vincent, wanted to do something to help military veterans and people with disabilities find a job.
In 2015, that dream became a reality when the two friends became business partners and formed The Vocation Depot, a not-for-profit company that tries to connect people with disabilities and veterans seeking competitive employment with local employers who are looking for responsible and ambitious individuals.
The idea started after Vincent suffered a service-related disability from the U.S. Army. “We found there were very few agencies that helped veterans and people with disabilities find jobs,” said Farinella, the company’s chief executive officer. “That’s why we started this company.”
The company services two parts of Florida — the greater Tampa area which includes Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties and Orlando, and the South Florida area (Palm Beach, Brevard, Broward, St. Lucie and Martin counties).
According to the company’s website — vocationdepot.org — its goals are to coach and mentor individuals with disabilities and military veterans and assist them with finding employment opportunities that match their individual goals. Once placed, the company will provide retention services to ensure their success as well as the overall satisfaction of the employer.
“We want our company to be a single destination for individuals to access vocational and/or medical services in order to gain competitive employment and to be healthy, productive citizens,” Farinella said.
One of the company’s successes has been its partnership with Wawa stores in Florida.
“So far, we’ve placed about 35, 40 people in various Wawa stores in the state,” Farinella said. “We also provide job coaching services.”
Farinella said the tasks of the employment associate are created based on their abilities. For example, can the prospective employee brew coffee, maintain the coffee island, clean and replenish other food and drink supplies throughout the store.
Besides Wawa, the company also works with Dollar General, and numerous restaurants, hotels and nursing homes throughout the state.
“The ability to provide both career services and medical services under one organization is a novel approach,” Farinella said. “This comprehensive concept, along with our dedicated and professional staff, will set us apart from other vocational rehabilitation organizations and providers.”
The Vocation Depot is committed to providing dedicated and knowledgeable employment specialists that have a true passion for serving our clients, Farinella said.
“We are partnered with local vocational rehabilitation, workforce programs and businesses to provide professional, organized and results-oriented services,” he said.
The company can help individuals ages 14 to 65 and those who suffer from autism to physical disabilities.
Some of the company’s services include pre-placement training, employment services, support employment, discovery, customized employment, psychological evaluation and vocational evaluation.