Woman working on a laptop

Everyone is searching for talent, but are you looking in the right place, and are you ready?

Diversity is not just nice to have in business – it is imperative to drive innovation, deliver relevant products and services that resonate with customers, and enhance corporate culture and productivity. Work Without Limits, an initiative of UMass Chan Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine, knows businesses are working hard to enhance their efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) yet often struggle with their comfort level and capacity to include individuals with disabilities. This untapped talent pool frequently consists of highly educated, skilled, and eager individuals seeking an employer who sees their ability instead of their disability – as the national What can YOU do? campaign states, “It’s what people CAN do that matters.” Highly qualified individuals with disabilities are actively seeking your jobs. Are you seeking out their skills?

The pandemic has lowered some previously high employment hurdles for people with disabilities. The increase in remote opportunities has reduced the transportation barriers felt by some with mobility or regional limitations. Individuals are no longer limited to working for employers that can be accessed by bus or train in their town or even their state. The “normalizing” of flexible work schedules have benefited those with family and/or routine medical needs. Technology is catching up with accessibility needs – such as virtual meetings with closed captioning – and easing the integration of sign language interpreters or translators. Though there is still much to be done, great, inclusive things are happening to reduce employment barriers for individuals with disabilities and facilitate employers’ capacity to include individuals with disabilities in their workforce.

Do you need help in your search for talented individuals with disabilities? Work Without Limits offers three specific services to guide employers and help them gain confidence and increase their capacity and comfort level when including individuals with disabilities in their organizations.

  1. The Work Without Limits Business Network is a robust consortium of public and private employers committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities as employees, customers, and suppliers. The business case for including people with disabilities in business is well documented. Through organizational membership, Work Without Limits provides practical guidance, education, opportunities, and connections to help you achieve your disability inclusion goals regardless of your self-assessed beginner, intermediate or advanced status. All are welcome!
  2. Disability Inclusion Trainings grow your staff and leadership’s disability knowledge, comfort level, and capacity to include individuals with disabilities in your workplace. Through one-hour, highly interactive, virtual workshops, you will learn about the value disability inclusion brings to business, disability etiquette and the importance of language, how to interview and conduct performance discussions with individuals with disabilities, and more.
  3. The Jobs Ability Jobs Board was created by a certified Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) and provides the opportunity for employers to have their jobs automatically posted daily for thousands of candidates with disabilities to explore. Employers can also actively source candidates via keyword searches and job description profile matches.

To learn more about Work Without Limits’ services for employers, please reach out to Bonnie Rivers, Director, Employer Relations.

About Us

Work Without Limits is an initiative of Commonwealth Medicine, the consulting and operations division of UMass Chan Medical School. Our goal is to position Massachusetts as the first state in the nation where the employment rate of people with disabilities is equal to people without disabilities.

Riverview School’s Customer Service Training Program (CSTP)

Riverview School is an independent, coeducational boarding/day school, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Riverview is a leader in educating students with complex language and learning challenges. We’re committed to helping each of our students gain academic, social, and independent living skills to achieve their goals.

Riverview School's Objective

Riverview School is developing a Customer Service Training Program (CSTP) for young adults with disabilities in their GROW (Getting Ready for the Outside World) program.  This CSTP will provide students with valuable skills that will transfer to future employment settings.

How can your organization get involved?

To ensure a robust program, Riverview is seeking enthusiastic employers to participate now through Dec. 2021 in the following ways:

Advise Riverview on core customer service competencies to be included in their curriculum: training content, materials,  job descriptions, etc.

Present as a virtual Guest Lecturer at one of Riverview’s CSTP classes that will include up to 8 Riverview students.

Host up to 8 Riverview CSTP students and 2 teachers for a company tour. (May take place after 12/2021)

Questions? Contact Kathy Muhr.

Disability Supplier Diversity

Disability Supplier Diversity Overview

There are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities in the world and the U.S. Census Bureau reports people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to be self-employed as people without disabilities. Further, a Cargill study states leading procurement organizations generate 133% greater return on the cost of procurement operations, with a higher adoption rate of supplier diversity programs, than average performers. Conversely, companies that limit their supply chain flexibility place themselves at risk for poor performance and potential supply disruptions. Disability:IN empowers business to achieve disability inclusion and equality.

The Disability:IN Supplier Diversity program is the leading third-party certifier of disability owned business enterprises (DOBEs®) and empowers corporations and government agencies to diversify their supply chain with increased contract opportunities. A certified DOBE is a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability.
– source: Disability:IN, 2019

Disability Supplier Diversity Forum

From 2018-2019, Work Without Limits was one of 8 Disability:IN affiliates that was a Wells Fargo grant holder to advance Disability:IN’s Supplier Diversity Program locally. Partnering with Disability:IN and the MA Supplier Diversity Office, Work Without Limits held two Disability Supplier Diversity Forums for our Employer Network in November 2019 and 2020.

Learn more about Supplier Diversity on our Resources page.

Culinary Career Academy

food service worker handling food with gloves on

The Culinary Career Academy

A culinary training program, brought to you by a grant from the Commonwealth Corporation

Candidates who are interested in the food service industry will be referred to the Culinary Career Academy by their respective agencies. A formal interview, information on program outline and schedule availability, along with benefit counseling from a Representative of Work Without Limits will be provided to each candidate.

The program will be offered 2 times a year for cohorts of 12-15 participants.

July 2021 Update

Congratulations to the 10 recent graduates of the Culinary Career Academy! After graduation all candidates will continue to receive support for two years to seek out employment or work on skills for employment. Graduates continue to receive ongoing benefits counseling through Work Without Limits as well.

Curriculum

The curriculum has three segments of training and a fourth, if feasible, based on the COVID-19 pandemic, may be added:

Interpersonal “Soft” Skills

  • Customer Service
  • Communication, enthusiasm and attitude
  • Introduction to the food service industry
  • Basic culinary skills
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Professionalism and self advocacy on the job

Interactive Virtual Classroom

  • Industry training and the ServSafe Food Handler’s curriculum
  • Basic kitchen safety and utility/housekeeping
  • Equipment use and maintenance
  • Food handling and cross contamination
  • Storage and product orders
  • Covid-19 Guidelines

Hands-on Experience Externship*

  • Hands-on experience of working in a fully operating kitchen within the community
  • Each participant will participate in 40 hours of Externship training to enhance the skills obtained during the classroom hours.

* Depending on feasibility due to community Covid-19 guidelines

Job Search Support

Participants will be supported for their future job search with:

  • Resume review and updating
  • Mock interviews
  • Search plan
Candidates will receive a food service certificate, with a focus on Covid-19 food handling, upon graduation. Support will be provided in obtaining employment in food service with our partner companies.

Culinary Career Academy logos

Interested applicants should contact Jillian Correia.

Kristianne Widman
Assistant Director
Riverside Employment Collaboratives
617-352-2040

Email

 

Jodie Toure
Project Manager
Culinary Career Academy HMEA
508-298-1157

Email

Jillian Correia
Culinary Career Academy HMEA Case Manager/Job Coach
508-422-9550 office
508-918-4787 cell

Email

MCB Disability as a Qualification for Employment

Disability as a Qualification for Employment

July - September 2020

The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) was interested in learning more about the type and number of employment opportunities for which having a disability would help make a job candidate qualified.  MCB partnered with Work Without Limits, an initiative of Commonwealth Medicine, the consulting and operations services division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to collect this information through focus groups and interviews.

Results:

People with disabilities have life experiences that can help them succeed in the labor market. These life experiences can benefit any workplace.
Read the MCB Disability As A Qualification for Employment Report

Project Overview

The goal of the MCB Disability as a Qualification for Employment (DQE) project was to develop a Business Case for Individuals with Disabilities, which will answer the question:

How can individuals leverage their disability to help them stand out in the labor market and secure and succeed in employment?

This business case will bring to light the many reasons employers want to include people with disabilities in their workplaces and tell the story of how individuals who are successfully working have leveraged their disability to contribute to their employers and advance their careers. It will help educate and inform individuals with disabilities of the following:

  • why employers value them
  • that their voices and life experiences are essential in any workplace

This business case will also replace the traditionally detrimental stigma that surrounds individuals with disabilities with a persuasive argument for Disability as a Qualification for Employment.

Work Without Limits conducted focus groups and interviews with disability-inclusive employers and successfully employed individuals with disabilities, combined these unique perspectives and provided information to MCB that will educate and inform job seeking candidates with disabilities of the value they bring to the workplace.  Below are the key facts of this project:

Project Goals
  • Gain the perspectives of employers and employed individuals with disabilities
  • Develop the business case for individuals with disabilities
  • Provide a resource for MCB and other vocational rehabilitation professionals
  • Educate, inform and empower job seeking individuals with disabilities
Key Stakeholders to be Engaged During this Project
  • Disability-inclusive employers
  • Employed individuals with disabilities
  • Employed individuals with visual impairments
  • Former and current consumers of MCB vocational rehabilitation services
Benefits of Participating in a Focus Group or Interview
  • Provide a rich understanding of the opinions and beliefs of employers and employees with disabilities
  • Educate, inform and empower vocational rehabilitation professionals and job seeking candidates with disabilities for years to come
Project Outputs
  • A resource that educates, informs and empowers job seeking candidates with disabilities of the value they bring to the workplace
  • Estimated to be available in October 2020
Data Collection and Engagement Modes
  • Focus groups and interviews conducted virtually via Zoom and/or by phone
  • Outreach by Work Without Limits and MCB staff and providers

Questions?

If you have any questions about this project, please reach out to:

Nathan Skrocki, MCB,  nathan.w.skrocki@mass.gov or 413-781-1290 x7817203

or Kathy Muhr, Work Without Limits, Director of Community Engagement, Kathy.Muhr@umassmed.edu or 508-856-3533

Polus Center Employment Now Initiative

Polus Center logoWork Without Limits partnered with the Polus Center on the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employment Now Initiative (ENI)

Employers attended a robust, 1-hour networking and practice webinar and met 4 Employment Now Initiative (ENI) candidates.

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Commissioner, David D’Arcangelo spoke about the benefits associated with employing individuals with visual impairments.

Candidates “practiced their pitch” and employers asked follow up and interview-like questions.

22 employers attended, representing 13 organizations!

Employers: If you are interested in forming a relationship with the Polus Center and the ENI for future cycles of candidates, connect directly with Jen Whitmore at jen_whitmore@meei.harvard.edu.

Participating Organizations and Employers:

 

AllWays Health Partners, Bay Cove, Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston University, Citizens Bank, CVS Health, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston,  Harvard University, Public Consulting Group

Learn more about the Polus Center and ENI.

Continue reading

Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Employer Challenge

MCB Employer Challenge logo

There is an enormous untapped talent pool of job seekers in Massachusetts. They happen to have disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities in MA is 2x higher than it is for those without disabilities.* The unemployment rate specifically for people with visual impairments is even higher.

For that reason...

The MCB Employer Challenge will ask employers to Do One More Thing to reduce stigma and increase employment for people with visual impairments.

More information coming soon! 
Special thanks to the Employer Advisory Group (EAG) that continues to provide invaluable campaign feedback and direction:

 

*U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy