NDEAM 2022 poster

A National Focus on Equity in the Workforce

It is with great excitement that throughout the month of October, AIM Services will celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Across our nation, a special focus will be placed on the accomplishments of people with disabilities who are working toward and achieving their employment dreams and goals, along with the staff, the employers and community partners who are all dedicated to realizing the goal of employment for all and who help these achievements come to fruition.

This year’s theme for NDEAM is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation”, drawing attention to the particular people and initiatives that drive equity in employment for people with disabilities. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities have achieved more employment-related goals than ever before, with dedicated staff by their sides and ongoing initiatives to assist and sustain employment opportunities. With this, the Employment First initiative is instrumental in shaping and driving equity in employment opportunities for people with disabilities to enter and succeed in the workforce.

Employment First is centered on the belief that all people are capable of achieving Competitive Integrated Employment (compensation at or above minimum wage, equal benefits package as coworkers, inclusive environment with people of all abilities, and presented with opportunities for advancement). With the combined force of eager participants, dedicated staff, and committed community partners, equity in the workforce is growing. Initiatives and organizations guiding and furthering the success of the Employment Services Program at AIM include:

  • APSE (Association of People Supporting Employment First) is instrumental in facilitating equal opportunities and compensation for people with disabilities.
  • NY Alliance for Inclusion & Innovation. The alliance believes in a “…society where individuals are contributing citizens with equal rights and the ability to live full, productive and meaningful lives”. They concentrate on advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and practice improvement, and advancing public policy for people with disabilities.
  • NYS CASE (Consortium for Advancing and Supporting Employment) offers training and technical assistance to organizations providing work skills and learning opportunities to school-aged students, contributing greatly to the realization of the learning and employment goals of those served.

With the combined force of eager participants, dedicated staff, initiatives dedicated to furthering employment for all, and committed community partners, equity in the workforce is possible.

Relationships Pave the Way   

Two people smiling together in front of a rack of blue binsThe Employment Services Program at AIM greets new opportunities to support a person on their employment journey with open arms. Meaningful relationships are built with each unique participant, allowing staff to discover the particular needs, goals, strengths, and opportunities for growth. The staff continually asks “how”; “How” can I help this person grow to ultimately achieve their goals, and “how” can I help them as their needs and goals evolve? The continuum throughout the various stages of the employment services is the driving force behind the success of participants. Outlined in more detail here, these stages help people develop work skills from resume building to strengthening relationships with co-workers, gaining paid and unpaid internship-like work opportunities, and achieving self-employment with as much or little support as necessary.

Employment staff at AIM offer ongoing assistance to program participants as they advance their education, develop their skills, and engage in community-based opportunities and experiences. The staff’s success is due to their continued focus on meeting people exactly where they are, creating responsive and customized support around them. At AIM, one size does not fit all, and the accomplishments of participants are a direct result of this approach to support.

Two people in orange vests standing in front of a fork liftCommunity partnerships greatly enhance success and create inclusive opportunities in the workforce. Below is a small sampling of recent achievements of participants made possible by community connections. These opportunities have led to greater independence in people’s lives.

  • LaToya is currently training to achieve her dream job as a CNA at Wesley, while still working as a paid employee.
  • Tony, a full-time college student, secured himself a second job at Target
  • David is taking on more job tasks at his position at Healthy Living, finding more satisfaction and fulfillment from this growth
  • John has worked through the entire continuum of employment support at AIM and is now holding a full-time job at SingleCut, where he is learning various aspects of the business, including bottling and forklift operation
  • Through participation in the Reverse Job Fair, Alex secured a position at Embassy Suites within the food services department, where he is now working independently without AIM staff support
  • David has been working on his employment skills over the last several years. His peers, staff, and community partners are regularly commenting on positive interactions, increased reliability, improved peer relationships, and effective use of feedback and instruction.

 Community Partners Transform Lives

AIM has built strong relationships with other employment services organizations, donors, and local businesses who are committed to achieving equity in the workforce.

  • Local employers work with AIM to help people develop their skills, ultimately hiring many of the people served.
  • Other fellow Human Services organizations also influence success by sharing and collaborating on innovative ways to increase employment for our diverse community members.
  • Committed donors help pave the way by removing roadblocks to program success through generous financial contributions.

Together, the AIM community creates ongoing opportunities for equity and inclusion in the workforce.

The Employment Services Program has had over 100 community partners located throughout the Capital Region, committed to supporting participants with achieving their dreams and goals. Although an exhaustive list is not possible here, below we list several of our more recent successful community partners who embrace and believe in a diverse workforce culture.

  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Double H Ranch
  • Embassy Suites
  • Healthy Living
  • Jiffy Lube
  • Open Door Mission
  • Party City
  • Plato’s Closet
  • SingleCut
  • Slate Valley Museum
  • The Saratoga Chamber of Commerce & The Reverse Job Fair
  • The Wesley Community
  • YMCA

Looking Forward

At AIM, the future is bright for the participants in the Employment Services Program. We are witnessing constant growth in the number of people seeking employment support, the community partners that share in AIM’s mission, and the support staff that directly serve program participants. AIM is intentionally building and strengthening relationships with community partners to better serve people as they pursue their goals.

Lasting effects of the global pandemic have left many community members with intellectual or developmental disabilities without the community-based programs in which they were once enrolled, resulting in an increased demand for support for people seeking employment and independence in their lives. An expanding employment team at AIM will ensure this growing number of people seeking meaningful employment will have the skills and experiences they need to succeed. It is through this intentional support that AIM contributes immensely to the goal of equity in the workforce.

Learn more about AIM’s Employment Services here.