WARWICK, RI – It’s been a year since grant program RI Workforce Investment and New Solutions (RI WINS) started matching the skills, interests and talents of individuals with disabilities to the needs of local business.
The program is a collaborative effort among the Rhode Island Cross Disability Coalition in conjunction with the Rhode Island Developmental Disability Council (RIDDC) and Skills for RI’s Future. The approach has produced positive results. At CareLink, Michael enlisted his tech talent within an office environment, and at the Salvation Army, Tramell focused on his love of sneakers in the retail store, as told in the RI WINS Employer Newsletter Issue 2, exploring their challenges and successes. The multi-faceted approach of the program targets the needs of each business while focusing on each job candidate’s needs, talents, and ability to flourish in the work and personal lives.
“The ability of community agencies supporting people with disabilities to educate and train businesses to work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has clearly indicated that there is benefit to all in having a diverse and inclusive workforce,” said Sue Babin, RI WINS project manager, also RIDDC Special Projects Coordinator.
“The participants are growing within their jobs, expanding their technical and interpersonal skills, and the workforce is getting the help they need,” Babin said.
With several businesses hiring job seekers with disabilities who have worked with job developers and coaches, the businesses have been open to making accommodations, when needed, some as minor as adjusting the time a shift begins. “The resulting workplace environment shows the flexibility of businesses to invest in making accommodations resulting in access to a more diverse talent pool to benefit the business, as well, “notes Babin.
Program building toward a national reach
While continuing the program in RI under the funding provided by the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), the goal of replicating this project nationally becomes increasingly more feasible. That its success has shown potential to benefit both employer and employee on so many levels make the program more promising.
Babin, noting the need to monitor and report outcomes documenting program successes, said, “The stories we are beginning to share present a comprehensive picture of the individual as well as the business practicing the DEI goals and seeing positive results, a valuable and reliable employee, and a workplace enhanced by the new hire.”
Meanwhile, she admits, “changes within the organizations that work with the job seekers with disabilities and the businesses that need staffing do not happen overnight.” There are new successes-in-the making, and good reason to champion the process as well as the results, she said.
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