May 24, 2016
Congratulations to Amber Barnes, staff at Opportunity Partners, for winning an Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM) Cares Award. She won one out of the six awards that were given this year at the ARRM annual conference. Amber was chosen from more than 100 nominees for her outstanding demonstrations of professional integrity, networking support and creative, innovative and proactive approaches to services. Read her nomination below:
As a Job Developer working for Opportunity Partners in Vocational Services, Amber Barnes exceeds all expectations of her job position, is mission focused, and believes in the people she serves. In 2015 she helped 53 people with disabilities secure independent, competitive jobs in the community.
Working one on one with every person she serves, Amber customizes her job development approach to best suit each person’s job goal and encourages them to become involved in the process. Developing rapport with each person she serves allows Amber to connect on a personal level which can reveal other important issues affecting quality of life. One such case involved a woman in her late 60’s who had recently gone through a difficult divorce, lost her home to foreclosure, and had recently moved into senior housing. On top of that, her social security benefits were being garnished for student loan payments. Amber was quickly able to identify and complete the forms needed to stop the continued garnishment.
Implementing a person-centered job search in this way calls for a high level of professional integrity and the ability to network effectively, both in and out of the office. One example of this is best described by Sara Wolf, a Placement Coordinator for the State of Minnesota. Sara’s letter of recognition states that Amber was a big topic of conversation in their most recent team meeting citing that almost every person in the room had a story about Amber helping them brainstorm difficult cases and assisting their individuals to the extent that they obtained employment! Sara went on to say that Amber really knows what it means to collaborate between agencies.
Amber’s abilities to network don’t stop with the above example and she’s aware that working with community employers that are new to hiring and training a person with a disability sometimes calls for innovative approaches like developing internships, job sharing, or on-the-job tryouts.
Sometimes, a job tryout is all it takes for an employer to hire someone with a disability. Amber could list several instances of this but one in particular comes to mind involving an outgoing young woman with cerebral palsy. Initially, the hiring manager saw a person in a wheelchair with limited use of their hands but after the job tryout, the individual was hired as a sales associate providing front line customer service as well as merchandising store products and inventory on the sales floor. Ask Amber why she was hired and she’ll say, because she can do the job and all they had to do was see her in action!
Amber is also well equipped to work closely with community employers after they’ve hired someone in an effort to train their staff and develop natural on-the-job supports that often increase job retention for the people she serves. Seeing is believing and employers see Amber as providing an effective staffing solution for them which often leads to more people getting jobs. Amber believes that we advance the lives of people with disabilities together.