News and Events

New initiative to lead to independent jobs

October 9, 2017

By Armando Camacho, President & CEO

Served by Opportunity Partners-Karlins Center, Greg sometimes struggled with changes in routine and social interactions. But when Greg landed his first independent, community job at McDonalds, his confidence soared. “I’m trying to be an inspiration to a lot of other people and hoping they can get to where my level is and get their own job.” Congratulations, Greg!

Greg’s success proves that people with disabilities deserve an opportunity to show what they can do. Working independently – while perhaps not possible for everyone – is possible for many people. This success often depends on many factors: an individual’s ability and desire to work, supportive families and teams, and encouraging employers. When everyone works together, we can open minds and change lives.

Changing attitudes
In addition to people with disabilities being more fully integrated into workplaces and communities today, society’s views of people with disabilities as a whole are changing. Television, movies and ads highlight people with disabilities, and an active self-advocacy movement showcases people with disabilities standing up for themselves and leading self-directed lives.

Family expectations are changing, too. At Opportunity Partners, we are seeing more young adults with disabilities coming out of school with dreams of working independently and goals of finding the best, most direct path to make that dream become reality. Opportunity Partners is here to help, and we need the community’s continued support to keep moving forward.

Underemployment and labor shortages
Experts are predicting a slowing labor force growth in our state, and many industries already struggle to fill positions. Yet a recent survey of Minnesotans receiving services from disability agencies found that just 1 in 4 has a paid job in the community. Of those without a paid job in the community, more than half said they would like to work. With 1 in 10 Minnesotans having a disability and the clear underemployment of people with disabilities, we can all work together to help meet labor needs and create opportunities for people who want to work.

Pilot project underway
To address this situation, we launched a new initiative last year called Together Works Better which blends innovation and inclusion to lead to jobs for people with disabilities. We’re currently working on several pilot projects – the first of which is a peer mentoring internship due to launch in early 2018.

In an effort to promote inclusivity, participating businesses will identify a peer mentor among their staff to provide on-the-job supports to a person with disabilities (intern). The peer mentor will meet regularly with an Opportunity Partners staff person for training and support during the three-week or three-month internship. Our goal is for interns to transition into permanent jobs at the conclusion of their internship. We’re excited about the opportunities this project will bring, and we ask for your support.

We are seeking a few more business partners as we prepare to launch the pilot. If you are interested in hosting an intern at your workplace, please contact Josh Grinolds at 952-930-4203 for more information.

Opening Minds. Changing Lives. Together. Join us on this exciting journey!

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