Representatives from a variety of companies gathered at AHRC New York City Headquarters to hear firsthand accounts of how employing people with disabilities can be beneficial to their businesses. Held on August 17, 2016, the event was organized by AHRC NYC’s Employment and Business Services in partnership with OurAbility and the New York Business Leadership Network (NYBLN).
Integrating Business with AHRC NYC’s Employment Services
“Employment is a game-changer. Look what it has done for everyone in this room,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. He explained that prospective workers with disabilities are often unemployed or underemployed despite being exceptionally qualified candidates. “We don’t want businesses to hire a person with a disability just to do it. It’s important to connect people to the right jobs.”
Steve Towler, Assistant Executive Director, AHRC NYC, said that as a whole, business is not integrated enough with the services that AHRC NYC provides. He cited New York State’s Employment First initiative, signed as an executive order in 2014, as a positive step towards greater awareness and results in the hiring of people with disabilities. “AHRC tries to be creative and flexible to match whatever someone’s dream of employment is,” he said.
One of the ways AHRC NYC achieves this is through Project Search, a one-year, school-to-work high school transition program that takes place entirely in the workplace. A partner in this project is Montefiore Medical Center, a teaching hospital and the largest employer in the Bronx.
“We take young workers with obstacles in their way to work in a variety of jobs in the hospital,” Dana Politis, Montefiore’s Manager of Professional and Workforce Development Programs, said. “They stay with the hospital for a full year and are treated like any other employee. This opens doors for them!” She said Project Search has been a huge benefit to both the employees and hospitals and encouraged everyone in attendance to be proactive in hiring workers with disabilities as well.
The New York Business Leadership Network
The keynote speaker for the event was John Robinson, Managing Director, and Recruitment Specialist for NYBLN. “There are people with disabilities who want to work. Their families want their lives to have value and worth. And businesses just want loyal, dedicated, hard-working employees,” he said. A congenital amputee, John used his inspiring personal story to show how disability can be negatively perceived by employers and how he overcame these assumptions time and time again.
John encouraged businesses to join the NYBLN so that they might connect with each other and a large, diverse network of prospective employees. “New York is big enough to have 300 businesses involved,” he said, taking a cue from the Employment First initiative, which called for 100 businesses to have formal policies to hire people with disabilities as part of their workforce strategy.
“I leave you with homework,” John concluded. “I ask not only for you to get involved but to go home tonight and think about three other businesses we should be connecting with. This is your network led by businesses creating employment for people with disabilities.“