Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio hosted a community information session on the Ohio Microenterprise & Customized Employment Demonstration Project.
The session, “Discovering How Customized Employment Will Enhance Your Organization’s Bottom Line,” took place at the Toledo Club on Feb. 23 with about 30 people from area agencies and businesses in attendance.
The Ohio Microenterprise & Customized Employment Demonstration Project is designed to create individualized employment opportunities for people with disabilities and explore how customized employment can help increase a company’s profitability.
“People with all disabilities should be able to work in jobs that are meaningful to them,” said Julie McComas, director of the project for RSC.
“The project will become a program to offer customized employment to job seekers across Ohio connecting with people looking for work in a new way. We want them to find work suited to their skills or talents.”
Goodwill Industries was selected by RSC to facilitate one of six employment projects in the state funded by a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The pilot program was introduced in October in Toledo, Akron, Columbus, Marietta and Youngstown.
The project is already helping people find customized employment or start their own businesses in the Toledo area.
“It’s really a great program. Consumers are not put in jobs where they’re not going to be successful. It’s essential for success that jobs are paired with the abilities and talents of disabled persons,” said Kathy LeRoux, project manager at Goodwill Industries.
“We meet the people and get to know them and their abilities to make it work,” she said.
LeRoux brought proof of the project’s success to the session. She worked with a local artist, Jeannine Dailey of Toledo who has a vision disability, to help her develop a business for her fine art and calligraphy.
Dailey is starting a mural-painting business for consumers and businesses with the help and guidance of the resources made available to her through the customized employment project.
“This program has given me my dream of having my own business. I want to see the program become a model for all the other states,” Dailey told the audience at the session.
Her business developed so well that she is giving overflow calligraphy work to another disabled person she met through the program.
“It gives them a focus on an area of employment for them. Some people have no idea what they want to do so you need to discover what a person has a passion for,” said Lisa Washington, an independent consultant working with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on the project.
“One of the goals of the project is to have an easy process for people to follow and we’re going to see results,” Washington said.
The SBDC in Toledo is very involved in the program, offering accommodations to allow people with disabilities to develop and implement a business plan, said Roger Shelley of Griffin-Hammis Associates, a consulting firm helping to facilitate the project in Ohio.
“We need to incorporate customized employment into our culture and business so the people we serve are satisfied with employment that has changed their lives,” McComas said.
Garry Mulkey, kitchen/facilities manager at COMPASS in Toledo, is working with Goodwill to find much-needed workers for the food service industry. He has found success in training workers and giving them skills to perform work that gives them self-confidence and mobility.
Community business involvement and leadership is one of the key ingredients for successful customized employment, according to Shelley. Development of jobseekers’ interests and skills to prepare them for work trials or internships is also important.
“Keeping money for services needed in your community is economic development for the area,” Shelley said.
A Community Action Team is being formed in Toledo to help facilitate the project here. Area agencies that work with disabled persons, community and business leaders are joining the effort to make it work, McComas said.
Teams of business owners and entrepreneurs will begin training for the project in mid-March and continue through September.
For more information about getting involved in the project, contact Kathy LeRoux of Goodwill Industries at (419) 255-0070 or visit the website www.goodwillnwohio.com.