When a business hires a new employee with a disability being supported by a community provider, the onboarding process, including staff coaching, typically takes several weeks or even months. Should that business hire a person with a disability supported by Penn-Mar Human Services for that same job, the employer can expect to have them trained and ready-to-go in only three days.
How and why is that possible?
It’s possible because Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment Program has literally done all the hard work for the employer in advance, ensuring a successful employment match.
People with or without disabilities succeed in their jobs if they are doing something that interests them and requires skills and talents they’ve mastered. If they don’t like what they do, or don’t feel up to the task, they won’t excel. It’s that simple.
Penn-Mar utilizes a four to six week discovery and exploration process to identify each of our job seekers’ skills, preferences and natural talents.
We then develop paid and non-paid activities such as informational interviews, internships and job shadowing opportunities with potential employers to gain a better understanding of specific job tasks, work environments and labor needs. Only then can we determine if a mutually beneficial relationship exists between the employer and our job seeker.
If it does, Penn-Mar provides the individual with ongoing support through job coaching, mentoring, training and/or the development of natural workplace supports to ensure a successful transition to a competitive work environment.
That’s what we are doing very successfully today.
But what about the future? How can we permanently bridge the divide between employers and people with disabilities that will have the business community saying, “Why didn’t we see the potential and value of this workforce sooner!”
Penn-Mar and many organizations like ours have been taking the message out to businesses that it makes good sense to employ people with disabilities. Our advocacy is paying off but our next step is to influence the overall profession of Human Resources.
If you go to a local college or university today and explore curriculum for people studying for the HR field, you will, no doubt see volumes of information regarding diversity. Unfortunately, you will see little mention of the value of full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.
Yet today’s college students, our future leaders, represent the first generation of students who may have shared a classroom with people with disabilities in high school. They are not complete strangers to these individuals’ needs and capabilities but once they hit college, it seems as if much of that experience may be lost.
At Penn-Mar, our vision for the future would include taking a lead role, to work with the higher education system to help them develop specific curriculum about individuals with disabilities and what they bring to the workforce. We need to teach Human Resources professionals how businesses can accommodate this culture.
Employers will learn that they don’t have to deliver support out of the norm; surprisingly a few creative processes that are not all that hard to implement can make a huge difference. But they need to be explored and taught in order to be implemented.
By helping these future HR leaders make permanent changes in the workforce to include skilled employees with disabilities, our culture will finally recognize and understand why these individuals are such a valuable resource.
That is the preferred future, the right future for individuals with disabilities who have the desire, skills, training and experience to get the job done.
By Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services