What is a sheltered workshop?

Missouri sheltered workshops are different from shops in many other states, because they depend heavily on contracted work and the revenue from that work to maintain operations.  They are actually small businesses who hire individuals with disabilities. On the average, a workshop’s contract revenue account for 70-80% of workshop revenue, government assistance 10-24%, and the balance from other grants.  Because of the dependency on contract revenue, Missouri workshops readily respond to customer needs relating to quality, and turn-around time.  Jobs performed include packaging (bagging, shrink wrapping, blister packaging, skin packaging, boxing), assembly (simple to complex), marketing and public relations services (collating, stuffing, and sorting mailings),  products (pallets, wire spools, first aid kits, poultry watering systems, office products, furniture items, etc.). Services are also provided by workshops including, janitorial work, grounds maintenance, commercial laundry operations, microfilming, to mention a few.  Workshops also provide work crews that work in customer facilities.

How are workshops run?

Each workshop is a private not-for-profit corporation overseen by a volunteer board of directors. Board members include local business people, educators, lawyers, accountants, and family members of employees.  The board outlines the general course for a given shop and hires an operational manager for the day to day operations.  

Each workshop has a special certificate from the Department of Labor that allows it to pay sub-minimum wages.  Workshop employees are paid based on their ability to perform in relation to the performance of a person without a disability.  If an employee produces 50% of what a non-disabled person produces, then they receive 50% of what that person is paid (i.e., if the prevailing wage for that job is $8 per hour, the employee receives $4.00 per hour).  These procedures are checked frequently by the Department of Labor.

Because workshops pay less, can they do work for less?

No, not necessarily.  Workshops do not receive the same production per hour as a business hiring non-disabled would receive.  For example, in the comparison above a person that works at the 50% level takes 2 hours to produce what a non-disabled person would produce in 1 hour, so the cost for the same amount of work is still $8, no matter who is doing the work.  Overhead costs may actually be higher for workshops than normal businesses because of the increased supervision needed.  Workshops must depend on quality, flexibility, and a large workforce to sell their services.  What workshops can offer for their customers is a dependable workforce without the headaches of personnel management.

How do workshops obtain business?

Some workshops have their own sales representative(s) who call on local businesses to make them aware of the services the workshop can provide.  Other workshops have joined together in cooperative arrangements to share sales people, and still others depend on the manager to do the sales work.  Much of a workshops business is repeat business, or word of mouth, from satisfied customers.

How many people with disabilities are employed in workshops?

There are 89 workshop corporations located around the state of Missouri. These shops provide employment for approximately 6,100 people with disabilities and approximately 900 non-disabled staff.

What kind of disabilities do workshop employees have?

The majority of workshop employees have been diagnosed with an intellectual and/or a developmental disability or other recognized disabilities. Other recognized disabilities include mental illness, head injury, blindness, deafness, seizure disorders, and physical disabilities. Prior to being hired for employment in the workshop, individuals must be assessed by the DESE Certification Specialists to determine whether or not they are capable of working in a competitive environment at this time. If the Certification Specialist determines they cannot work competitively at this time, he/she will certify them for employment in the workshop.

What role does the state play in the operation of the workshops?

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides some funding, regulations and guidelines for the establishment and operation of sheltered workshops, and some technical assistance when requested, however its role is minor in the day to day operation of the shops.

What do the workshops do for the community?

 Sheltered Workshops not only provide employment, especially for people with disabilities, but they also put money back into the community. Payroll, purchase of goods and services, and participation in community affairs are just a few of ways that workshops contribute to the community.

What can a workshop do for your business?

Workshops can provide a ready and capable workforce, production space, equipment, and transportation of product. Some businesses turn over their entire operations, from receipt of inventory to customer shipping, to the workshop. This provides definite benefits to those businesses in that they are able to concentrate on selling, and not be burdened with a lot of issues like facilities, personnel, overhead burdens (utilities, insurance, etc.). Can one of Missouri’s shops help your business? Without a doubt they could. Contact Sheltered Workshop Section, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, PO Box 480, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Call (573) 751-0622 or e-mail sesw@dese.mo.gov.

Email: sesw@dese.mo.gov

Phone: (573) 751-3547

Last Revised: April 19, 2016