Guest post: Finding the perfect fit with a local business

Contributed by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities

The Cade sisters love to be with each other, and they love to clean. “Cleaning is their thing,” says Rebecca Puckett, an SSA at the Vinton County Board of Developmental Disabilities (VCBDD).

But their love for each other and necessity to work together meant finding a very accommodating employer, which was tricky. “They are just really, really close. Been together their whole lives…never been apart. It was a struggle to find employment because they would have to take on two,” Puckett remarks. “They wanted to work the same shifts.”

Margaret and Mamie Cade with Michael Williams at his business, where both sisters work.
Margaret and Mamie Cade with Michael Williams at his business, where both sisters work.

Enter Michael Williams, owner and director at R.M. Funeral Services.  As a student at Ohio University in Athens, Williams saw a young man with developmental disabilities working at a Wendy’s and vowed that if he started a business, he would do what he could to employ a person with developmental disabilities.

As a small business owner, he was wearing a lot of hats. In addition to cleaning and upkeep around his facility, he was performing all of the day to day business operations. He reached the point when cleaning and general maintenance, which he views as paramount to the success of his business, was falling to the backburner. “Cleaning is a constant. The busier we are, the more cleaning. We want to make sure that our facility is top notch for families,” stresses Williams.

The Cade sisters were matched with R.M. Funeral Services by Employment First Job Coach Ashley Darling and have been employed since March of 2016, working two days a week. Their hard work, earnestness, and attention to detail led to even more work from Williams, such as gardening, and property and building maintenance.

“Once I developed a relationship with them, I knew they would do a great job. There is always something that can be done,” Williams comments. “I wish I could get some of the other business owners here to jump on board. It’s beneficial for [them], beneficial for the person with special needs, and it benefits the customers.”

In addition to cleaning at R.M., the sisters have a great fondness for gardening, and work at a greenhouse. They also clean for other businesses as needed. In their free time, the sisters solve a lot of jigsaw puzzles, and love watching the Ohio University Bobcats play football and basketball.

“Employment First is exemplified by the cooperation of multiple agencies, supports provided through the VCBDD, and the desire of a local business to hire to people’s strengths,” says Tina Spanos from VCBDD. “That is what provided the Cades the springboard to success [at] their jobs.”

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) oversees a statewide system of supports and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The agency’s mission is continuous improvement of the quality of life for Ohio’s citizens with developmental disabilities and their families.

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Focus on soft skills improves chance for employment success

Without question, 19-year-old Aurora Hobden said, she wants to land a job. The prospect both thrills and frightens her.

Will she be able to manage her emotions? Follow procedures? Multi-task?

“What might be hard is handling the pressure,” Hobden said. “Being able to know what you’re supposed to do and do it and maybe be good at it.”

Aurora Hobden, left, and Hunter Kleman take part in an exercise at Greenleaf Job Training Services. (Photo by Kyle Robertson for The Columbus Dispatch)
Aurora Hobden, left, and Hunter Kleman take part in an exercise at Greenleaf Job Training Services. (Photo by Kyle Robertson for The Columbus Dispatch)

The Upper Arlington resident is among thousands of Ohioans with developmental disabilities whose path to employment no longer leads — at least not automatically — to a spot in a sheltered workshop. State and federal policies that aim to sharply decrease reliance on programs considered “segregated” are steering more and more would-be workers to jobs in the community.

But that transition, no matter how welcome, can be overwhelming. Many of those seeking work spent years in special-education classes and programs where expectations were gentle and nontypical appearances and behaviors didn’t stand out.

“There are certain things that are accepted in those environments that won’t be in the community,” said Jessica Schollenberger, an instructor and job developer at Greenleaf Job Training Services in Clintonville. She’s helping Hobden and a handful of other young adults enrolled in a new class at Greenleaf that is designed to focus on the soft skills that often make or break job success for people with disabilities.

Read more in this article from The Columbus Dispatch.

Relationship-building helps with job placement in Huron County

It seems at times as if most of the world is made up of two kinds of people: Those who lead, walking in front of the crowd and loudly urging others to follow; and those who stand silent in the shadows, watching and waiting for others to show them the path.

mike-rey-jpg-1On occasion, though, you encounter a third type, that rare person who leads quietly and confidently, yet seeks no recognition or praise for a job well done — and who is often uncomfortable as the center of attention. Mike Rey, community employment job developer for the Huron County Board of Developmental Disabilities (HCBDD), is just such an individual.

“I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of people who make me look good,” Rey said. “All I do is get a door open and get them the opportunity; they take the opportunity and run with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just people. I try to do a job match based on what the employer’s looking for and what the person’s looking for. It’s like any other relationship; you don’t always get the perfect match, and sometimes you have to try again

Rey, who held a similar position during his 28-year tenure at Stark County DD, has spent the past three years with HCBDD building strong working relationships with individuals with disabilities, their families, and local businesses. “I usually get the initial referral from Lisa Cossin [HCBDD’s Director of Community Integration] or OOD [Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, formerly known as the Bureau for Vocational Rehabilitation, or BVR],” said Rey.

“Then I meet with the person, get to know about their interests, past experience, where they live. … I almost always drive by the individual’s house, because if you can find a job where you can walk to work, that’s a bonus. I’ll help them develop a resume, fill out job applications, and take them to interviews. If there are businesses near the person’s home, I might just stop in and ask about the possibility of employment. You never know unless you ask. Once they’re hired, I’ll visit them at work two to four times per month for three months, just to make sure the relationship is solid and the fit is right.”

Story originally appeared in the Norwalk Reflector

Businesses share experiences, best practices and benefits of hiring people with disabilities

More than 40 people attended the Nov. 17 Workforce Solutions Summit to learn from businesses about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

mary-stagaman-with-panel
Mary Stagaman talks to the audience about the importance of inclusive hiring.

“We want to bring more people with disabilities into gainful employment, and this has to be part of our strategy,” said Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion adviser for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “There are many barriers to employment but that does not mean unemployable.”

Stagaman, who provided the keynote speech, said people with disabilities have diverse experiences and businesses can benefit from this pool of talent.

Fifth Third Bank utilized Project Search, a business-led school-to-work transition program, to find employees with disabilities and expand hiring, said Program Manager Mitch Morgan.

He added employee engagement has improved by having people with disabilities on staff. For example, Morgan said, one year after Fifth Third hired two Project Search graduates, that department had a 30 percent increase in regular attendance at work.

“We pursued learning and best practices, and did our homework for what skills are needed and train people to do that job,” he said. “It took a long time to get to a point to justify the business case. You can have challenges with any employee, and it’s important to create a match for the position.”

Kings Island also adopts the practice of finding the right employee for each job, whether it is in food service, games, admissions or elsewhere. The amusement park has been hiring people with disabilities for years, setting special interview days and finding the best fit.

“They have an overwhelming pride in their work and love the job,” said Diann Shafer from Kings Island. “Our guests respond positively and enjoy seeing them around the park.”

Warren County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Kirby also has experienced benefits after hiring someone with a disability to help gather files for cases. “Her motivation and enthusiasm are contagious,” he said. Small adaptations for her, like using a cart to collect files or having an alphabet chart, have been adopted by other employees.

At ThyssenKrupp Bilstein in Butler County, they’ve hired 14 people with disabilities. “It’s a pool of untapped talent,” said Paul Meintel, who works with the company’s aftermarket group. “It’s a secret boon because they bring so much to the table,” he said.

Having discussions and hearing from other business leaders helps because familiarity starts to remove the idea of “other,” which Stagaman said is vital as Cincinnati’s businesses continue to grow and look for new workforce talent.

Matt Disher of Cintas and Lauren Todd of ViaQuest moderated the panel. The County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties partnered for this regional event at the Crowne Plaza in Blue Ash.

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Guest post: Gaining independence while working in the community

Contributed by the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities

He’s only gotten a few paychecks, but Licking Heights graduate Charlie Stumbo is enjoying the benefits of his first full time job.

The 21-year-old started his job, cleaning at the Defense Supply Center Columbus — through Goodwill Columbus— on July 19. “It’s been good,” Charlie said. “I’ve gotten to meet new people who work there.

The Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ transition youth and employment supports teams helped connect Charlie with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Functional Training Services Inc. and other resources he needed to be successful.

Charlie Stumbo, of Pataskala, recently accepted his first full time job in Columbus and is taking more steps toward independence, with support from his family and LCBDD.
Charlie Stumbo, of Pataskala, recently accepted his first full time job in Columbus..

His journey to employment started early, with support from his parents Paula and Fred Stumbo. He enrolled in the Individualized Transition Education to Careers program at C-TEC during high school and then participated in a two campus based transition programs at Ohio State University,  the Student Transition Education Program and Project Plus.

Both programs gave him the opportunity to work with a job coach and experience multiple internships. Over two years, he worked at Kennedy Commons, the Blackwell Inn, Morrill Commons, the OSU RPAC and several other locations.

“That gave him good job experience and good life skills too,” Paula said.

After receiving his high school diploma in the spring, Charlie was able to get his drivers license, with support from OOD. He connected with Functional Training Services which helped him secure his job at DSCC.

When he isn’t working, he’s active in the West Licking Warriors Special Olympics team. He’s getting ready to start bowling and enjoys participating in track and basketball. Lately, he’s been able to spend more time with his friends from Special Olympics, playing Xbox games.

His mother said she’s thrilled to see him becoming more independent. “He won’t have to depend on Mom and Dad, although he knows we are always here for him,” she said.

As parents, she and Fred want to make sure Charlie and his younger brother Greg, who is also supported by LCBDD, have the resources they need to be successful.

“What’s going to happen when Mom and Dad aren’t around?” she said, “That’s why it was it was important for us to hook up with the board so they have a support system in place. Now they know the board is there, there are people that will always be there to support you.”

Career exploration and on-the-job training for students

Haley Wiseman (left) and McKale Losey fold fitted sheets at Holiday Inn Express in Athens.
Haley Wiseman (left) and McKale Losey fold fitted sheets at Holiday Inn Express in Athens. Photo by John Halley for The Athens Messenger.

Having a summer job is a part of life for most teenagers, and it’s no different for the 21 students working through PersonnelPlus’ Summer Youth Employment Program.

The program, split up into two areas, career exploration for younger students, and on-the-job experience for older ones, lets high schoolers job shadow, learn interview skills, and build their resume, PersonnelPlus Transition Coordinator Jordan Pepper said.

Students are paid minimum wage — $8.10, which is funded by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and the Vocational Rehabilitation Public and Private Partnership, and work 20 hours each week during a portion of their program, lasting five weeks, Pepper said.

“We feel that this program helps students with disabilities gain valuable work experience that will lead to successful employment in Athens County later on,” said Doug Mitchell, PersonnelPlus Director. “Furthermore, because these students are paid, money is returned back into the local economy as many of these individuals buy goods and services, which have in the past, translated to buying school clothes and supplies.”

Read the rest of the story in The Athens Messenger.

Connecting with local businesses

Jack Estael, membership director at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, talks to Tony Doan, a sales rep for General Assembly, about the work people at Beckman Adult Center complete for local companies.
Jack Estael, membership director at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, talks to Tony Doan, a sales rep for General Assembly, about the work people at Beckman Adult Center complete for local companies.

Last month the business brunch series wrapped up at Beckman Adult Center. Eleven local businesses attended the three sessions to learn about customized employment and the varied work abilities of people at each adult center.

“The brunches provided an opportunity to connect with local businesses and organizations and share the benefits of employing people with developmental disabilities,” said Nathan Beck, Hamilton County DD Services Employment Coordinator. “These events provided a forum to build long-standing relationships and interest in meeting unmet business needs with an untapped population of job seekers.”