We Need to Talk About the Unemployment Gap

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October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Observed each year, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.

This month, we at Jay Nolan Community Services reflect on how our actions and our services are assisting individuals with disabilities to find and secure meaningful jobs of their choice.

Support Employment Services at JNCS:

“The Right Talent, Right Now.”

This year’s NDEAM theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” This theme highlights the valued role individuals with disabilities have in the current economy, which emphasizes the high demand for skilled workers in a variety of creative and competitive jobs.

Awareness campaigns like NDEAM certainly help raise awareness of the issues surrounding diversity in the workplace. But breaking down the barriers to employment takes far more than just one month a year. It is a daily struggle.

The Autism Unemployment Gap

An estimated 85% of college-educated people with autism are unemployed. That is a shocking percentage when you take into consideration that the total US unemployment rate is currently down to 3.7% (as of August 2019).

Why is there such a huge discrepancy in employment for individuals with ASD? And what can be done about it?

It’s no denying that individuals with disabilities have incredible skills and bring new perspective to the table. But anyone who has ever looked for a job on their own knows, simply having the talent that matches the qualifications for a job posting is not enough. Learning to pass interviews, navigating through the complexities of workplace culture, and regularly dealing with employers who do not fully understand how to accommodate those with disabilities makes this process even harder for individuals with autism or other developmental disabilities.

Though the process described above may seem daunting, there is a proven way to break down the barriers and help bridge the unemployment gap: individualized support.

Individualized Supports Makes the Difference

Our approach to bridging the gap is simple: Customized support tailored to individual needs.

Every individual is different! Everyone has their own goals and talents, and everyone struggles with different issues when it comes to reaching their goals. That’s why JNCS Employment Services (ES) are designed to meet people where they are in their journeys.

By working closely with individuals and listening to their specific needs, everyone benefits.

For instance, let’s look at our Supported Employment: Of the individuals receiving services, 88% found employment within 90 days and 95% maintained jobs of their choice for one year or more. Plus, 100% of employers reported that they were happy with their new employees.*

*Based on the 2018-2019 FY Outcomes Report

What does JNCS support look like?

Services can be provided to assist people in education endeavors, job searching, on the job training, and even starting a business using funding from both Regional Center and Department of Rehabilitation. Our focus is finding positions in a community integrated work setting.

Support includes assisting job seekers with reviewing interviewing techniques, completing job applications, understanding workplace culture, benefits planning and identifying additional resources that may be needed by the individual to make them successful in the workplace (i.e. transportation needs).

JNCS offers a variety of services, though the end goal is always the same: to encourage independence and self-sufficiency so that our support is no longer required. In fact, support is gradually phased out as the individual gains the necessary vocational skills and experience to work independently.

Who benefits?

JNCS supports individuals of all ages. In 2018, our clients ranged from age 19 to age 71! This includes individuals who recently finished high school and are figuring out what they want to do next. This also includes individuals who have been working for a long time and require additional on-the-job support from a job coach.

Employment is also not limited to traditional nine to five’s. Our clients have also started their own small businesses. For instance, Hunter Larkin owns his own printing and design shop: Hunter Larkin Art.

Individuals have also found success in starting a career through the Uniquely Abled Academy (UAA), a partnership between JNCS and the College of the Canyons. UAA teaches CNC machining skills through an intense workshop aimed at developing marketable skills in the manufacturing field.

How Can I help?

As part of NDEAM, we are raising money to help fund Employment Services her at JNCS. With help, we can support more individuals here in California to find and secure their career of choice.

Help bridge the unemployment gap for individuals with disabilities by donating to our #BridgetheGap campaign this October.

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