Federal Contractors, are you ready?

How does Section 503 affect me? What is Section 503?  What happened with the final rule on August 27th, 2013?  There are a number of questions surrounding Section 503.  I’d like to answer some of them for you.

So who cares? Section 503 specifically affects Companies with government contracts of $10,000 or more.  This will also affect those subcontractors who work with these companies.  In addition, individuals with disabilities, their families, and their support staff will benefit from the Final Rule.

So what does it say?  Did you know that Section 503 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?  In August of 2013, Section 503 was not written or added, it was updated and a “Final Rule” was passed.  In summary, the Final Rule states, “Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal contractors and subcontractors to employ and advance in employment qualified individuals with disabilities and prohibits discrimination against such individuals.”

What has changed?  The final rule has implemented a new set of regulations.  The most important changes are that Federal Contractors and Subcontractors must meet a 7% utilization goal.  That means that these employers must hire and retain 7% of their employees as self-identified individuals with disabilities (IWD).  They must collect data on the number of applicants with disabilities that have applied, were hired, and promoted.  The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will enforce these rules, and can access these records at any time.

I’m an individual with disabilities, what is important to me?  What you need to know is that these contractors will be looking to hire individuals with disabilities (IWD) to fill their 7% utilization goals.  They will start to implement new programs to attract IWDs.  If you need a job (or a new job) it would be a good idea to know who these employers are, and how to apply to them.

I am a Federal Contractor/ Subcontractor what is important to me?  If you are not aware of these changes you need to contact the OFCCP.  If you are aware, but have not reached your 7% utilization goals, please contact me.  We are able to help you meet those regulations and can support you through the process of becoming compliant.

If anyone has more questions or comments, feel free to email me at heather.riley@nebaworks.com and have a wonderful day!

Heather Riley

Project Coordinator

New England Business Associates

Overcoming obstacles and succeeding

My name is Richard. I was born with a medical condition which affects my leg muscles and to a more minor extent my upper body strength. Additionally I have balance issues and tend to trip more easily.

I started working at New England Business Associates (NEBA) in May of 2006. Previous to my employment I had been a client of NEBA’s services. I was referred to NEBA by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. I informed them that I was interested in a position which would let me utilize my computer skills, my verbal ability, and organizational skills. They recommended that I utilize the services that NEBA provides and I met Neil David, who would later become my case manager. Neil and I would spend some time in NEBA’s office job searching on the computer to see which positions were currently available. He would also arrange appointments to come to my house and from there we would drive to local businesses and submit my application and resume.

As fate would have it, I received a call from Neil saying that a temporary position became available at NEBA. I had seen over this time spent searching for employment, the services that NEBA provides to all of its clients and the kindness of all of the staff. I jumped at this opportunity and never looked back.was hired temporarily as the receptionist for NEBA.  As I was able to demonstrate the additional skills that would benefit NEBA, I was able to transition from temporary receptionist to permanent Administrative Assistant.  Working at NEBA continues to be a wonderful experience. Over the course of my employment I have seen the progression of so many of NEBA’s clients, either in the work that they do at their chosen jobs or in their social abilities and interactions with others in the office.   

As for myself, I have learned so much during the course of my employment at NEBA and feel that they have given me the opportunity to show my abilities and skills as well as gain office administrative experience and develop new skills. The staff here is very accommodating of any extra assistance I may need such as lifting heavy supplies off of shelves or any other physically demanding task I may need extra assistance with due to my disability.

On occasion, I give the clients their schedules and let them know who they will be working with during the week. I have also helped the clients order lunch by making the phone call for them if needed and then making sure that they receive their food. Client transportation is very important as many of the clients do not drive. I assist them by calling and making sure that their transportation is on time and make sure they know when the bus is coming.

The writer’s workshop at NEBA is working with a client to write a book. When needed, I will assist the client by working with him to develop his ideas and help him put those ideas in writing. I also monitor our classroom when the instructor is out of the room.

I feel that the work I do here at NEBA is the perfect fit for me and my abilities. Having a physical disability, I feel that the goal’s that NEBA accomplishes empowers all of the people that they serve.  The clients have become more productive members of society by gaining employment in their chosen fields of interest.  In other cases NEBA helps the individuals learn skills to become more independent both at their job and in their living situations. These goals that NEBA strives to provide are very much needed in society and truly inspirational. It is, and has been a wonderful experience for me to work at New England Business Associates.

Written by NEBA employee Rich G. 

Are you interested in learning more about NEBA and what we do… visit http://www.nebaworks.com or follow us on Facebook.

Meet Jesse

When I was asked to write about a successful autistic consumer for Autism Awareness Month, immediately, I thought of Jesse. I tried to write about Jesse with the very standard “struggles to success” plot line. While what I wrote was all very accurate, it just didn’t seem to do Jesse any justice. He is simply too dynamic for a formulaic article.

However, background is important. Jesse has been diagnosed with autism. He came to NEBA about two years ago to learn employable skills, find volunteer placements, and eventually become employed. Jesse has completed all these goals and more. He attended the Career Ladders program and still attends each week; though his job and volunteer placements don’t leave him enough time for full days of class any more. Jesse currently works as an office assistant once a week at Health Resources, a doctor’s office in Hadley. He excels in all his tasks, which range from filing patient information to walking the office dog. Jesse also volunteers at the Hubbard Library, which he dusts while trying not to get distracted by the movies and music that call to him from the shelves. If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Jesse volunteers twice a week at Dakin Animal Shelter.

Just like a list of diagnoses doesn’t accurately describe Jesse, neither does his resume depict the vivid person, who loves movies, music, books, dancing, peanut butter cookies, and keeps Charlotte, the Spider in his pocket.  When Jesse enters NEBA, he walks straight to the nearest person to tell them the latest news about his Johnny Cash CD collection. Jesse, NEBA’s social butterfly, travels from one person to another a reciting different movie line duet with each person, spanning films from Aladdin to The Wizard of Oz. While anyone can recite quotes and memorize facts, I have met very few people who feel the excitement of each one so deeply inside themselves and have the ability to infect others with their enthusiasm.

At Dakin, Jesse folds laundry, which I think most of us will agree, can get repetitive at times. To keep towel folding interesting, Jesse has started reciting stories. Each day I work with him, I get a different tale complete with accents, dramatic pauses, and flourishing gestures that only occasionally interrupt his folding. I have heard everything from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney Audiobook), with a particular affinity for Dr. Seuss. When I say that Jesse is reciting stories, I mean the whole entire book, along with copyright date, background on the author, and the occasional instruction to “flip the tape over.”

Jesse doesn’t just have a passion for movies and books but also for music, specifically Johnny Cash. He can list every song and CD Cash produced with the same information and detail listed on its label. When he plays the music that he loves so profoundly, you can see the excitement course through his body and be released as he sings and dances. Jesse doesn’t worry about what people think of him when he performs, something most of us could only wish we could reproduce in ourselves. He simply feels the music and wants to share the feeling with those around him, especially those in the audience he has collected beforehand.

Recently, Jesse and I have been working to creatively combine many of his interests. Every Friday, I help Jesse to write about one of his passions in a limerick. Jesse chooses the topic, checks the rhyming dictionary, and creates his own poems. I type and occasionally help cut out some extra syllables. Once again, the enthusiasm Jesse feels about these topics and about writing his own poems, barrels through him. We sit together at a computer, while Jesse grins and moves excitedly back and forth in his chair, formulating poems about every topic from Johnny Cash to Mr. Hoober-Bloob.

Jesse, like everyone else, goes through life with ups and downs, successes and struggles in addition to his Autism. However, he is so much more than this. Jesse loves his passions deeply and enthusiastically in an uninhibited way that most of can’t image or at least admit to. Just having the chance to appreciate his enthusiasm and to feel it rub off on those around him, is something I look forward to every week.

Do you want to learn more about NEBA and what we do, visit our website at http://www.nebaworks.com and sign up for our newsletter.

This post was written by Hannah Spiro, an Employment Consultant for New England Business Associates.

The Key to Employment Success

Every day, I see articles scattered about the internet about jobs. Job creation, job success, interview tips and tricks, what to put/not to put on your résumé…the list goes on. Some of these articles, however, don’t even describe the most important step in finding a successful job placement, not only for agencies supporting individuals with disabilities, but for everyone.

A legitimate question: how many of you buy something immediately after seeing it, without even asking what it does or how much it costs? Probably very, very few of you. What would make you more likely to purchase it? Probably a few things:

  • The item’s purpose – What can it do for me?
  • The item’s cost – How much will this cost me?
  • The item’s performance – Is it well-built? Is it made by a reputable manufacturer? Does it have good reviews?
  • The item’s demand – Will I really use this if I purchase it?

A lot of what NEBA does it similar to a customer contemplating a purchase, only the customer is an employer, and the item (not to intentionally dehumanize), is our job seeker. Employers have all of these basic questions (and then some) in mind. To paraphrase the above list into employment terms:

  • The job seeker’s role – What can this person do to help my business?
  • The job seeker’s pay – How much should I compensate them for their work? Can I afford it?
  • The job seeker’s credentials – What are their skills? Does NEBA know they are a good match for my business?
  • The job seeker’s effectiveness – If I hire this person, will it be worth my investment?

Back to the important key step in employment success. Before an employer can even begin to ask these questions, they need to trust the person they are speaking with. This does not happen in the first, or second, or even third or fourth conversation together. It takes time to build a relationship, and that is the first key to employment success for our individuals. Is it mostly in the job seeker’s hands to succeed? Absolutely. But with NEBA as the catalyst to employment and as the initial contact to employers, it is our relationship building that starts the journey to successful placement.

If you happen to receive a visit from a NEBA employment consultant, you can be sure we won’t blurt out our mission statement. We want you to do the talking first. 🙂 It is about your business, not our job-seekers. We want to know what your business does. How you have reached your current status as a business. How today’s economy is affecting your bottom line, and your employees. We want to know how your business impacts the community. We also want to know your story. How did you come to be the employer that you are? Are there things you would change about your business? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor (hey, it can’t be all business)?

The bottom line: If we don’t know about you, we cannot possibly know about your business. If we don’t know about your business, we cannot possibly know if a NEBA job seeker would be a great match. Without taking the steps to nurture a relationship, there’s no point in even asking about job opportunities, because neither NEBA nor an employer wants to invest in something they don’t know about.

-Ryan Aldrich

Senior Employment Consultant, Connecticut Services

Job Creation vs. Job Carving

It’s not uncommon to hear the term “job creation” in everyday life. With today’s volatile economy, jobs are one of the main topics of the 2012 presidential election. With unemployment around 8.5%, everyone has ideas on how to create jobs. Whether your preferred job creation tactic is tax breaks, stimulus funds, or good old-fashioned education access, people need to work to live successfully. When it comes to job creation, NEBA is no different. NEBA also uses a strategy called “job carving” to place job seekers in successful positions. What’s the difference?

Job Creation

Job creation is just as it states. A position is drawn up based upon an employer’s need. Job descriptions are created, a salary is set, and someone is hired to do the job. NEBA meets with employers and gets to know them and their business. What are their needs? What are their barriers to further success? How can a NEBA job seeker help them meet their goals? If these questions are not asked, we cannot match the right person to the right job, and we are therefore not doing our job.

Job Carving

Job carving is based upon the same concept as job creation, but is a bit different, in that it is usually based upon a position that already exists and is vacant. When meeting with an employer, NEBA may have a job seeker in mind that could benefit the employer. However, sometimes, not all of the tasks are aligned with the job seeker’s abilities. Perhaps the person can lift 40 pounds when the job requires 60. Maybe 30 minutes of a 6-hour shift involves heavy typing, and that’s not someone’s forté. This is where job carving comes into play. What if NEBA could help an employer figure out how to integrate that one task amongst other staff? This way, the barrier would be cleared, and NEBA’s applicant could confidently perform all other tasks the employer is looking for. Essentially, the job is being “carved” to cater to the job seeker. Employers still hire one person for the job they needed complete, and are supporting NEBA’s mission and community integration in the process!

Carving A Creation

Sometimes, job carving leads to job creation. Working with a Springfield Walgreens, we were able to take the extraneous tasks of cleaning restrooms, sweeping the store, washing windows and doors, etc., away from staff who needed to focus on customer service, and create a new position for one of our job seekers whose employment goal was to keep a store neat and tidy. Nearly 7 years later, that gentleman is still gainfully employed and has many natural supports in place to secure his independence.

Whether it’s job creation or job carving, NEBA’s mission of putting people to work in their communities is a win-win.

–Ryan Aldrich, Senior Employment Consultant: Connecticut Services

BRS Work Evaluations: Helping Without Hiring

Have you ever felt like you wanted to help someone in need so much, but just didn’t have the means to do so? Maybe it was a phone call from a charitable foundation looking for a donation, and bills need to be paid. Perhaps someone needs their car towed, but you don’t have a AAA membership to lend out. Sometimes, people want to help, but don’t think they can. This happens quite often when I am meeting employers in communities across Connecticut. So many employers recognize the talents and strengths of people with disabilities. Many of them want to help in some way, but due to budget constraints, slow business, etc., they find themselves in a tough spot. Thankfully, NEBA, in partnership with the Connecticut Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) is here as a resource for employers who want to help, but can’t hire.

BRS is a federally funded vocational rehabilitation program that is overseen by the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS). Funding is received from the US Department of Education, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Most states have their own federally funded vocational rehabilitation programs (Massachusetts’ is the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), with whom NEBA also partners), though the services given and terms used vary by state.

BRS uses work evaluations to help job seekers determine whether or not a chosen career path is an appropriate choice. They are also used for agencies like NEBA to determine whether or not a job seeker has the necessary skills to perform tasks efficiently and to an employer’s benefit. Evaluations typically last 40 hours and are completed within a two or three-week period. A NEBA job coach is present for all or most of the work evaluation (determined before the evaluation begins). At the end of the evaluation, employers are asked for feedback, which is put into a report completed by NEBA consultants and submitted to BRS. The job seeker is paid for the hours worked, but not by the employer! BRS pays NEBA the consumer’s wages, along with a premium to cover the job seeker’s liability and worker’s compensation, and the wages (equal to Connecticut’s minimum wage) are paid to the job seeker.

That’s right. Any employer offering to help a BRS job seeker complete a work evaluation gets:

    • 40 hours of work completed at their business
    • A NEBA job coach to assist with any issues that may arise
    • The great feeling of helping someone enter or re-enter the workforce
    • All wages, liability and worker’s compensation paid for

…and all at absolutely no out-of-pocket expense!

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? I hear it all the time. It’s the real deal. NEBA and BRS confidently send job seekers to companies for work evaluations because many hours have been spent meeting with the job seeker, finding their interests, skills and talents, barriers and challenges, all before employers are even contacted. When I contact businesses to talk about work evaluations, I do so knowing that the job seeker will benefit that employer for the 40 hours they work for them.

Obviously, our ultimate goal at NEBA is to place job seekers in permanent positions on company payrolls. Work evaluations are a first step for BRS job seekers to showcase their skills, and are a great way for employers to get involved, especially those who want to help, but just can’t hire. Work evaluations are all about developing partnerships with businesses to help put people to work.

If you’re an employer in Connecticut who is interested in helping a job seeker with a work evaluation, feel free to contact us. Regional contacts are below:

Employers from other states may contact their respective state’s Department of Social Services for information on their state’s vocational rehabilitation programs and services.

-Ryan Aldrich, Senior Employment Consultant

Looking Forward

This time of year is my favorite. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past year, thank those who have supported our mission, and celebrate those who have met their goals. NEBA is privileged to employ 60 very talented and dedicated staff who assisted many new job seekers to become employed this year, and helped many more maintain their jobs despite difficult economic conditions.

This year was particularly challenging due to fiscal uncertainties and natural disasters. Although trying, these did not deter us from meeting our mission: “To enable people with disabilities whose rights and freedoms are most likely denied them to be fully included in community life, primarily through employment.”

Despite the difficult times, NEBA expanded services into Connecticut and became a vendor of the Department of Developmental Services and the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services. NEBA is now assisting 42 individuals to find jobs in their communities, and we plan to increase our capacity to serve more individuals in 2012.

The NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) served 40 individuals this year interested in being self-employed; eight of whom completed their business plan in the past quarter. These new businesses are now off to the implementation phase and one business has already seen the need to hire an additional employee. The BDC also became an affiliated member of the MACDC which is committed to community and economic development and received funding from the People’s United Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.

As the economic challenges continue, the tasks and challenges become more urgent for all of us. More than ever we need to work in partnership, recognize that we’re all bound together in a social and economic struggle, and remember that employment needs to be the priority for individuals with disabilities. Although NEBA has always partnered with local businesses, partnering with other non-profits was and will continue to be fundamental to our being able to reach more individuals and strengthen our service delivery. Chapel Haven in Connecticut, FutureWorks Career Center, and the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Massachusetts were new partnerships formed/strengthened this year specifically to increase the number of individuals with disabilities who become employed or self-employed.

We look forward to these ongoing partnerships as well as forming new partnerships that will assist us in serving many more in 2012.

– Jeannine Pavlak, Executive Director, NEBA