Amid push for workforce diversity, campaign works to include Bay Area residents with disabilities

The Mercury News
August 11, 2017

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.

To read the full arti­cle, visit The Mer­cury News.