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

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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.

New England Business Associates Salutes Client Economic Advancement

Economic development is often defined as reaching an increased level of financial stability. For most people that translates to working and being financially self-supporting. Individuals receiving government benefits are encouraged by society and other factors to stay on funded benefits.  To work towards self-sufficiency and stop government funded benefits requires a great deal of support and information from a wide range of resources. 

At its April 16th, NEBA Salutes, dinner, New England Business Associates (NEBA) recognized two individuals who have attained the unique status of ending government funded benefits.  These individuals made decisions to work towards financial self-sufficiency in the competitive workforce.  

Sandra is working with a major health organization and looking forward to the purchase of her first car.  Jose is using his MBA for the first time in over a decade to work in a business setting that solves and monitors complex financial situations.  Both individuals shared their story with a group of other individuals also seeking to attain financial selfsufficiency.  

Individuals receiving Social Security benefits and seeking information regarding the Ticket to Work program should go to http://www.chooseworkttw.net.  NEBA is a TTW agency and can provide individual information on this program.

This event was funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and is part of a program to support Massachusetts residents in attaining economic sustainability through employment or self-employment.

 

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.

Client Profile: Lavek N.

Lavek was born and raised in the Forest Park section of Springfield, Mass. At the age of 23 he moved to Texas for a teaching position, and he returned to Springfield four years later to take a special education position in a self-contained behavior classroom. Lacking strong staff support, Lavek developed his own strategies to help students curb negative behaviors and focus on their positive traits. “Within the education system, I found that I was able to work effectively with behaviorally challenged students,” he said.

When other teachers noticed Lavek’s success, they sent him their behaviorally-challenged students. Using techniques based on respect, trust, and positive feedback, Lavek continued to see positive changes in the students he worked with. His approach worked in a variety of settings, until he took a position in Central Massachusetts where negative discipline was encouraged. “I found it difficult to work under those conditions, and that’s when I realized I could better help students if I started my own business.”

The mission of Lavek’s new business venture was to encourage educators to show respect for their students, build their trust, and steadily achieve positive change. “I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to go about doing it,” he said. Lavek struggled for years, trying to get his business going, and when he arrived at the NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) his confidence was shaken. “I came in defeated,” he said. He credits the Center and its director, Colleen Moynihan, with providing the mentoring and encouragement he needed to complete his business plan and successfully launch his business, “Knowledge is Power”.

With the BDC’s guidance and support, Knowledge is Power went from a single focus to offering multiple services, including anti-bullying workshops, one-on-one teacher and student consultations, and comprehensive work with failing schools in Western Mass. In addition to operating his business, Lavek continues to practice what he preaches by teaching a class of behaviorally-challenged high school students in Springfield. “Focusing on unity and respect helps to create a more positive learning environment,” he said.  

For more information about Knowledge is Power, e-mail lavek@knowledgeispowergroup.com or visit www.knowledgeispowergroup.com.

– Eric Fiedler, Outreach & Development Coordinator

Marketing

Marketing: “The activity set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” – Wikipedia

When I was looking to join NEBA after getting to know my current supervisor, I was impressed by how NEBA emphasizes something not often seen in our non-profit, human services world: Marketing. The concept of marketing is not just used in the business world to obtain greater profit, it is also used to help forge mutually beneficial partnerships between businesses and non-profit organizations.

When NEBA started its push  into the great state of Connecticut almost two years ago, one of the things we did to build our foundation was join various chamber and networking groups around the state. We started with the Metro Hartford Alliance, the Greater New Haven Chamber, and the Chambers in Cheshire, Manchester and Waterbury. We are also members of similar organizations in Massachusetts such as the Greater Springfield Chamber. Each of these chambers present monthly events that our staff are assigned to attend. These events are specifically for networking and relationship building. The general message that we try to put forth at these events includes:

  • Economic Development.  In my previous post I spoke about this at length. In summary, NEBA is bringing economic development to the communities we serve by helping people gain employment, in turn requiring less assistance from state and federal resources. We also contribute economically to our communities by hiring full-time staff to help with our ever-growing organization in Connecticut.
  • Community.  We appeal to the people we speak to that we are trying to help the people we serve to eventually become independent and achieve personal succes.  By hiring these individuals, regional businesses are serving the community they live in.
  • What are their needs?  By attending these  monthly events we build relationships with companies and try to find out what needs they may have. By building these relationships, we can help them fill those needs and in turn find employment for our individuals.

A lot of today’s business world is impersonal. We at NEBA continue to believe in the power of face to face, human interaction. This is why we seek out networking events and one-on-one personal connections with the various businesses that are members of these chambers.

– Timothy J Blonsky, Senior Employment Specialist, Connecticut Team

Economic Equality Through Employment

Equality. A word that has been fought for since the beginning of time. A word that is the subject matter of one of the greatest speeches in the history of the United States, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Some would argue that equality has been achieved, or at the very least has gotten better in the last 50 years of our country. However, there is still much work left to do in our evolving society. Equality will always be strived for, no matter one’s lot in life.

At NEBA, we strive for equal opportunities for our job seekers. We feel that the road to equality for individuals with disabilities is paid employment. Why? Because many of the individuals we serve are people who are in a search for purpose in life, and for their place in society. The common factor in all of this is employment.

Just as your job and my job give us purpose to get up every morning and realize our dreams (or pay our way to our dreams), the same is true for the individuals we serve. Their dream might be to get their own place to live, to buy a car, or to go on a vacation. A job gives our job seekers the kind of freedom and equality that they would never get from a monthly disability check. A job allows the individuals we serve to be part of a setting where they can interact and socialize with society in a way they can’t in sheltered workshops and group-supported employment, which many with disabilities participate in.

The  NEBA mission and vision statement, which I feel perfectly summarizes what we do and why we do it:

To enable people with disabilities, whose rights and freedoms are most likely denied them to be fully included in community life, primarily through employment.

In a way that:

• Incorporates and creates the best practices
• Creates valued typical societal roles
• Offers individualized opportunities
• Does no harm

So that the gifts and talents of all people are appreciated.

– Timothy J Blonsky, Senior Employment Specialist

Connecticut Team

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