Monday, October 18, 2010

Partner Spotlight: Alliance for Full Participation

The Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) is a collaboration of states and organizations that seek to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have the opportunity to be included, integrated, independent, and productive community members. AFP has a strong vision for employment equity in competitive jobs with competitive wages, raised expectations surrounding employment, and job satisfaction and retention among people with development disabilities. This commitment includes the "Real Jobs: It's Everyone's Business" Campaign, which seeks to double the employment rate of people with disabilities by 2015. A summit will be held in Washington, D.C. in November 2011 to mark the midpoint in the campaign and bring together the various stakeholders involved in the movement. Central to the work of AFP are state-level partners and state team members, including people with developmental disabilities, their employers, coworkers and families, business organizations, community members, service providers, government representatives, and advocates. Karen Flippo, the State Team Liaison for AFP, spoke with the NTAR Leadership Center about the "Real Jobs" campaign.

Listen to the podcast with Karen Flippo, State Teams Liaison, Alliance for Full Participation
Read a transcript of the podcast
Learn more about the November 2011 summit
Find out more about your state AFP team

Monday, October 4, 2010

Strategy Spotlight: Registered Apprenticeships

Registered Apprenticeships (RA) combine on the job training with classroom style education to provide a full skill set necessary to succeed at a particular career. The U.S. Department of Labor's (USDOL) RA program offers a training path to over 1,000 different careers in a wide variety of sectors - from the more traditional apprenticeship style fields such as a carpentry and electrical work to law enforcement and healthcare. Realizing the opportunity this kind of program could create for youth with disabilities, the USDOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) awarded cooperative agreements in September 2009 to The Workplace, Inc. of Bridgeport, Connecticut and the SkillSource Group, Inc. of Vienna, Virginia to provide RA programs for youth with disabilities. The NTAR Leadership Center sat down with Nestor Leon, Assistant Vice President of Programs at The WorkPlace, Inc. to discuss their efforts with this cooperative agreement and their experiences providing RA to youth with disabilities.

Listen to the podcast with Nestor Leon, Assistant Vice President of Programs, The WorkPlace, Inc.
Read a transcript of the podcast

Monday, August 9, 2010

State Spotlight: Ohio

Ohio has been actively exploring ways to implement universal design principles to improve the state's workforce development system, including education and training services, to better meet the diverse needs of job seekers and adult learners, whether they are adults with disabilities, older workers, TANF recipients or others. In May, the NTAR Leadership Center and the Ohio Initiative for Persons with Learning Disabilities facilitated an event, for the state's Adult Basic and Literary Education (ABLE) program, Rehabilitative Services Commission and Job and Family Services staff that introduced them to the concept of Universal Design and its application for adult learners and job seekers. The Program Manager of Ohio's Disability Program Navigator Initiative, Gwen Ivory, and Sharon Reynolds, the Director of Ohio's Center/Southeast ABLE Resource Center at the Edward Stevens Center for the Development of Literacy and Language, both sat down with the NTAR Leadership Center to discuss their state's work with Universal Design.

  • Listen to the podcast with Gwen Ivory, Disability Program Navigator
  • Read a transcript of the podcast

Monday, August 2, 2010

Partner Spotlight: National Network of Sector Partners

Sector initiatives are industry-specific approaches to workforce development and economic development for creating jobs as well as career pathways for job seekers in a particular industry. Sector initiatives generally work with a group of employers in a focused industry, use workforce intermediaries to facilitate the development of workforce solutions to meet employee needs, and work to promote long-standing change that can benefit the industry by providing skilled workers and benefit both the community and workers by providing good jobs. The National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP), the only membership organization in the country to promote sector initiatives, has been working to improve regional economies and enhance employment opportunities for low-income individuals through the promotion of sector initiatives. Under the leadership of Jack Mills, Director of the National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP), and an NTAR Leadership Center Research Advisory Panel member , NNSP is strengthening the sector field by expanding the knowledge base of sector initiatives, advocating for policy support for sector initiatives at the state level, developing new funding models, and exploring new models of sector initiatives. Mr. Mills spoke with us about the benefits of sector initiatives and his work at NNSP.

  • Listen to the podcast with Jack Mills, Director, NNSP
  • Read a transcript of the podcast

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unfinished Business: The ADA Turns 20

This is a guest post from Jeffrey Stoller, Director of Communications and Outreach, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

On July 26, the nation will mark the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law. It is rightly celebrated as a landmark civil rights bill that has benefited Americans both with and without disabilities.

Looking back over the past two decades, however, it is clear that removing physical barriers to work has not led automatically to meaningful employment opportunities for jobseekers with disabilities. In fact, a June 2010 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that less than 22% of working age Americans with disabilities participate in the current labor force – compared to 70% of those without disabilities.

It seems that the ADA’s success in improving access to workplaces has not guaranteed access to work itself. Assistive technology has helped people with disabilities connect with essential business equipment and information, and ADA design standards have brought ramps, automatic doors and wider corridors to new and renovated buildings nationwide. Yet, far too few jobseekers with marketable skills are being hired.

The issue of finding job opportunities for people with disabilities has become a greater challenge as a “jobless recovery” threatens to emerge from the country’s troubled economy. The scarcity of available jobs has occurred just as the ADA Amendments of 2008 are increasing the number of employees and jobseekers officially defined as “disabled.”

Persistent obstacles to disability employment.
A recent review of the ADA’s impact on employment by Rebecca Hastings of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) warned that many employers may still have an exaggerated sense of the cost of accommodating employees with disabilities. Companies are particularly uneasy about dealing with mental disabilities, or less obvious physical impairments. Others assume that ADA regulations will subject them to discrimination lawsuits for any business decision that adversely impacts their employees.

Interestingly, employers themselves acknowledge that supervisor confusion over ADA accommodation requirements and a failure to recognize a disabled person’s true skill levels are leading barriers to employing job candidates with disabilities. These problems, highlighted in a 2006 study of “Employer ADA Response” by Dr. Susanne Bruyere and colleagues at Cornell University, were especially common in small firms which serve as the leading source of new jobs created within the U.S. economy.

Weak enforcement of ADA employment provisions.
The slow progress in increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities since 1990 may also be traced to a failure to distribute adequate information to covered employers or enforce the laws by government. As the Cornell study suggests, employers of all sizes report a need for more information on complying with ADA provisions, particularly those on how to properly accommodate disabled workers and jobseekers.

At the same time, jobseekers complain that governments have failed to devote sufficient resources to enforcing the employment discrimination laws and other regulations that make workplaces more accessible. For example, inadequate transportation for disabled commuters was a recently highlighted in the Boston Globe (June 28, 2010) in an article describing the failure of local police to ticket drivers who block access to bus stops.

What can be done to make the ADA a more effective tool for promoting disability employment? After 20 years, there is still a compelling need for disability groups to work more closely with employers to explain the relevant laws and encourage ways to introduce workers with disabilities into the incumbent workforce. Internships and programs that train jobseekers in high-demand skills are among the joint projects that employers and advocates can pursue together in order to give businesses the talent they are seeking. Clearly, there are many more years ahead before the ADA’s promise can be fully realized.

Friday, June 18, 2010

State Spotlight: Alaska

The State of Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education is undertaking a number of promising and innovative initiatives to increase the employment of people with disabilities throughout the state, including a customized entrepreneurship project, START-Up/Alaska (part of the START-Up/USA Initiative). Governor’s Council Executive Director Millie Ryan has over 20 years of experience in disability employment and has previously worked in the vocational rehabilitation field for the state and for multiple nonprofits that provide residential and vocational services to people with disabilities. She spoke with the NTAR Leadership Center about Alaska’s experiences.

  • Listen to the podcast with Millie Ryan, Executive Director, Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education
  • Read a transcript of the podcast
  • Follow the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education on Twitter
  • Read more about START-Up/Alaska

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Consider the Possibilities of Social Media

This is a guest post from Robb C. Sewell-Wolff, Senior Writer/Editor, John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University

A few months ago, my colleague Savannah Barnett talked about some of the myths surrounding social media and highlighted the value and benefits of social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Hopefully, you’ve taken her words to heart and have braved this new frontier, perhaps poked your toes into what might have been uncharted waters, or maybe even immersed yourself completely in the revolution that is social media.

But what can you use social media to accomplish? In the first part of a two-part blog, I’m going to touch upon five things that you can use social media to do. Then, next week, I’ll follow up with a second blog that looks at a nonprofit organization that is doing amazing things with social media.

So…what can you do with social media?

1. You can start conversations.

Social media isn’t only about you spouting your ideas, thoughts, or opinions. In fact, social media works best when it creates a dialogue between people. It not only allows you the chance to be heard, but gives others the opportunity to let their voices be heard as well. It gives everyone the chance to contribute their opinions and knowledge to a discourse.

2. You can change conversations.

My friends on Facebook will often apologize for “hijacking” a thread I created — that is, taking the conversation off subject into different directions. But that is the beauty of social media. You can be talking about health care reform one minute, and then a dozen exchanges later, the subject has morphed into a discussion about the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t get frustrated if your discussion goes off tangent. Accept it and let the conversations flow naturally. The results may be unexpected and quite rewarding.

3. You can network with others.

Social media allows you the chance to interact with individuals you might never typically encounter. I’m living proof of that fact. Aside from my career at the Heldrich Center, I’m a fiction writer. And I’ve used social media to network with others in publishing. Through social media, I became friends with a novelist and television writer who connected me with her literary agent. A friend on Facebook put me in contact with his brother who just so happens to be the founder of a theatre group in New York City. And now the theatre is willing to read a sample from my play. Frankly, these are networking opportunities I likely would have never made had it not been for social media.

4. You can create communities.

There are all kinds of communities online — for cancer patients and survivors, playwrights, parents of children with autism, and pet owners, to name but a few. These communities enable people to band together to support each other, exchange resources, and share triumphs and struggles. Thanks to web-based programs like Ning, which is available for a fee, anyone can create an online community that will bring together people who might never have the chance to interact and learn from each other.

5. You can make things happen.

Social media allows you another forum to make your goals become a reality. Again, let me share from my personal life. I’m a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2003. Last year, I got involved in the LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia, an event designed to raise money for cancer. With just six weeks to raise money for a 10-mile bike ride, I turned to Facebook and Twitter to seek financial support from friends, colleagues, and family. My fundraising goal was $250 but thanks to the generous support of many people, I was able to raise over $1,500…and that in the midst of a crippling recession. I wasn’t the only one to use social media to raise funds. Many LIVESTRONG participants did so. The result? Over $3.2 million was raised to fight cancer.

As I conclude, let me challenge you to take some time to think about how social media might benefit your organization. Could you use social media to create a virtual community for your constituents? Think about your funding sources. Are they online? How can you interact with them virtually and, perhaps, build the foundation for future funding? What are you trying to achieve? How can social media help to make your aspirations become reality?

Consider the possibilities and start putting social media to work for you and your organization. The power is in your hands. Are you going to use it?