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Job Training Service Provides Bridge to Competitive Employment

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Job Training Service Provides Bridge to Competitive Employment
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Opportunities for independence are expanding for people with disabilities. It has started with the gradual phasing out of sheltered workshops, where individuals with disabilities have traditionally been tucked away, isolated from the rest of the community.

These workshops aren’t shutting down; many people will remain there as they have for years. But workshops are closing their doors to new entries in an effort to start toward better integration. Some who are transitioning out of these workshops and into competitive employment will have the option to work with a job training service to provide mentorship throughout that transition.

Greenleaf, a Columbus job training facility targeting veterans, individuals with learning disabilities, and others “who face significant barriers to employment,” will launch their Community Work HABits program this year.

Jennifer Kuntz, Greenleaf President, said the program is about bridging the gap between doing piece work in a sheltered workshop and engaging in full on community employment.

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“I mean, there’s just a huge gap between their abilities, their knowledge and understanding, their sense of comfort in going out into the community and doing a job,” Kuntz said. “We have created this little program that fits in that spot there to help train them in what they’re going to need to be out in the workforce and in the workplace.”

Filling in that gap includes training in soft work skills, like how to interact with colleagues and how to adjust to a work environment. People in training will also learn the day to day tasks that accompany independence, like budget planning, navigating public transportation, and actively seeking out employment.

“Initially, of course, it would kind of be doing some job shadowing,” Kuntz said. “Just looking at different kinds of jobs, seeing what people do, identifying the skills that are required for different kinds of jobs so that they can begin to relate — ‘If that were me, would I enjoy that?’”

Participants in the Work HABits program will be able to decide which job suits them best. Classes will start out relatively small as the program gets going. Between 8 and 12 students are anticipated for this year’s class, with one mentor to lead. With the small class size, students will get personalized training and the freedom to work at their own pace.

All of this training is not just so these individuals can all become baggers or burger flippers, Kuntz said. People with differing abilities are too often underestimated and stigmatized. While things are looking up, Kuntz said she’s still forced to correct ignorance among employers and community members.

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“To me it’s like, really, that’s all you think people with a disability can do?” Kuntz said. “I always come back and say, ‘Well, we placed a woman as a CEO of a non-profit, we placed a gentleman in a welding position, and they go, you know, they’re just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Trainees will start the year-long program in June, but some may finish before the year is out. Kuntz said that as the program continues and grows each year, more staff will be brought on to mentor bigger classes.

For more information, visit www.greenleafjts.com.

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