October 19, 2011

by: Renee Canfield

Work is Possible!

People with disabilities represent the single largest minority group seeking employment in today’s market place. Unemployment and poverty, monumental obstacles of their own accord, often accompany other challenges for individuals with disabilities.

UCP Community Employment Program operates under a presumption of employabilitywork is possible! This is based on the understanding that there is meaningful work available for every individual that wants to work and that every individual deserves the opportunity to have employment at a level that meets their skills, regardless of disability, the need for support and accommodation or economic circumstances.  Each client that participates in the program comes to work with dedication and pride in their ability to support themselves and be a contributing member of their community.

As a part of this commitment to employment, UCP is participating in the Employment First:  Ohio Sheltered Work Transition Project.  The Employment First initiative is a nation-wide plan to improve the potential for individuals with more significant disabilities to obtain and succeed in community-based jobs.  As a part of the project, UCP worked with an outside consultant sponsored by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to build transition teams to support identified individuals in their employment goals.  UCP identified seven individuals who were currently in the Organizational Employment Program, a sheltered workshop located at UCP.  These individuals worked with their Transition Teams over several months to identify interests, skills and career goals, as well as brainstorm job options, address barriers to employment, job seek and identify job supports.  Of the seven individuals, two individuals were placed in community jobs at Bon Appétit and Reese Pharmaceuticals, and three other individuals are volunteering; one at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, another at a parochial school reading to the school children, and the third at UCP’s Children’s Services department cleaning and sanitizing therapy equipment and reading to the children.  All these individuals feel that volunteering is a valuable step to gain work skills while searching for employment.

Scharene is UCP’s most recent Employment First Initiative success.  After graduating from high school in 2005, Scharene started working in the Organizational Employment Program at UCP, where she learned to focus on her work, improve her productivity and work quality, and to develop positive relationships with supervisors and coworkers.  She was chosen for the Employment First Initiative because her supervisors at UCP knew that Scharene was capable of working in the community and Scharene has done a great job transitioning into a position at Reese Pharmaceutical packaging medication.  She works as a part of a team that includes ten other UCP client employees with a full-time UCP supervisor.  Scharene comes prepared to work daily, and also has displayed the most  initiative among her peers pertaining to job performance since she started working at Reese.  She loves the opportunity to meet new people and earn a paycheck. She also enjoys the inclusiveness of working with peers that do not have disabilities and now feels like she is more connected to her community.  Scharene’s supervisor believes she has the potenital for long-term employment at Reese.

If you have questions about UCP’s Community Employment Program or the Employment First Initiative, please contact Paul Soprano, Director of Vocational Services at psoprano@ucpcleveland.org or 216-791-8363.

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