October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, and one of the best resources in Northwest Indiana for connecting people with disabilities to meaningful employment is the JobSource program at Opportunity Enterprises (OE). Led by Director Kathleen Parks Savich, the team members at JobSource help to prepare, connect and place clients referred by Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services with job opportunities in local businesses.
“The people we serve all have skills, abilities, talents, passions, and purpose. Connecting great people with great businesses in need to reliable employees is the service we provide,” Parks Savich said.
The JobSource program is open to anyone with any disability referred by Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation. Most referrals start in a discovery stage. In this stage the individual completes short-term assessments or internships under the guidance of an OE/JobSource Employment Specialist. During this time, the client explores various career opportunities by working hands on at local companies. Discovery is setup to access skills and find out what clients are good at. Then we develop their Vocational Goal around those outcomes. It also gives the business an opportunity to witness the skills and abilities of the client for possible employment.
“The beautiful thing about the discovery process is that it helps both the person being served gain work experience while also allowing the businesses to see their abilities first-hand,” Parks Savich said. “We now have businesses that understand the steps of the program and want to hire individuals upon the completion of the Discovery Program. These internships and assessments have turned into working interviews.”
Once the discovery stage is complete, the client will meet with a team of people, including their Employment Specialist and a representative from the Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation. The team discusses the client's goals, helps with resume writing, completing applications, practices interviewing, and even ensures that any clothing needed for the interview is obtained.
The JobSource program has over 20 years of proven success, with a 93 percent placement and retention rate. While more than 100 businesses in the area have realized the benefits of the program, there is still a great amount of opportunity.
“There is a whole untapped employment resource of individuals with disabilities that many businesses are not aware of,” Parks Savich said. “There isn’t anyone in our program, or who comes to us, that is not searching for their purpose and the opportunity to do their passion work, whatever that looks like.”
Businesses have found that the employees they hire through JobSource are hardworking, dedicated individuals who strive for success.
“Our retention rate is high because the people who come through our program want to go to work. They show up and have minimal call-offs,” Parks Savich said. “We have been privileged to place individuals who win Employee of the Month, are training new hires, and so much more.”
All that is true for JobSource partner Strack & Van Til.
“Strack & Van Til has a long history of supporting the communities we serve by providing opportunities for employment, which supports diversity and inclusion. Our partnership with OE JobSource only aids our company in gaining another talent pool of workers that many organizations might overlook,” said Rich Bugajski II, director of human resources at Strack & Van Til.
“The staff with OE JobSource has always been great to work with. They are professional, attentive, and offer on-site coaching and ongoing support to clients. OE JobSource assists individuals in finding the best position to fit specific skills and abilities businesses are seeking,” Bugajski said.
The JobSource program is not only beneficial to businesses but also offers a sense of normalcy and purpose for the clients. Having a place to work and connect with others is an important part of a person’s life.
“It’s part of the human condition to be included, to have a purpose every day, to earn a paycheck,” Parks Savich said. “Our goal at OE is to make sure that every person we serve we help to maximize their self-sufficiency and help them live as independently as possible.”
Disability Employment Awareness Month comes to an end in October, but the need for programs like JobSource never ends.
“Anyone who wants to work and is able to work should have an opportunity to do that. We (JobSource) have an amazing team of dedicated individuals who take great pride in celebrating the successes of the individuals they serve,” Parks Savich said.