Even as California’s unemployment rate has sunk to record lows in recent months, the population of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities has struggled with high levels of unemployment or underemployment.
A collaboration among three Bay Area agencies is trying to change that.
Launched in July 2016, HireAble is a campaign from three nonprofit partners — Contra Costa ARC, Futures Explored and East Bay Innovations — that connects local businesses to employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since then, it has helped 70 people with disabilities get jobs in the Bay Area.
The campaign, which was funded by a grant from East Bay charity Thomas J. Long Foundation, is an extension of the work providing support for people with disabilities that the three nonprofits have been doing for years, said Tom Heinz, executive director of East Bay Innovations.
Both the nonprofit leaders and employers they partner with are quick to point out that hiring from the community of people with developmental disabilities is not just a charity mission.
“When you do it well, you hire the best person for the job,” said Tom Stepien, CEO of Primus Power, an engineering firm in Hayward that provides energy storage systems.
Stepien found the best person for a job in John Racho, an alum of Project Search, a training and job placement program from East Bay Innovations, five years ago.
Racho did so well in the job — which included administrative work such as setting up for meetings, and receiving and sorting mail or packages — that he was converted to a full-time employee and given stock options, like other full-time Primus employees.
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