Project SEARCH: A Unique Internship Program that Benefits Local Business

by: Cindy Bahl, Director of Business Development & Amplify! Events

Most of us are familiar with internship programs and perhaps have even been an intern at one point in life.  We understand the value of interning; gaining experience and working on those soft and hard skills.  Internships are often very competitive and sought-after experiences, providing an opportunity that can launch into a career.  The international internship program, Project SEARCH is similar to a traditional internship, yet it has a unique focus of providing internship opportunities for adults and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

In this nine-month internship program, developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, a host business provides up to 12 interns with three different work experiences and includes an employment provider who specializes in the skills training and job placement of people with I/DD, like autism and Down syndrome.  Collaboration occurs between all partner agencies as the intern is immersed in the host business, developing both soft and hard skills that will move them toward their ultimate goal of working in the community.

Meet Project SEARCH graduate, Brandon Runyan, a young adult who recently completed and graduated from the Project SEARCH site hosted by Embassy Suites by Hilton, Portland-Washington Square in Tigard and supported by Albertina Kerr, a local employment provider partner.  Brandon shared his positive experience with me to help create awareness about the program and the contributions that he and others can bring to the workplace.

Cindy: What did you like about the Project SEARCH program?

Brandon: It doesn’t just teach you the hard skills of the actual job, it teaches you how to be a good worker in any job, how to be productive in the workplace, and how to be reliable.”

Cindy:  What are some specific things that you learned and are using today, now that you are employed?

Brandon:  How to read my paycheck!  How to pay my own bills and budget for the things I want to buy like a Starbucks or new headphones.

Cindy: What is your job at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Portland-Washington Square location?

Brandon:  I am a Breakfast Ambassador!  I stock supplies, bus tables, and keep the dining area looking good.  I interact with customers and have learned to balance a friendly conversation with the work, so I don’t talk too long.  My supervisor, Joe Wehbi, said “coffee must flow”; I learned a lot from him.

Cindy:  Do you think you would have this job if you had not participated in the Project SEARCH Internship program?

Brandon: Definitely not.  I was on the way to being employable but not ready to hold a job.  Learning workplace skills, practicing my communication, and interview skills made a big difference to me.  My supervisor in Project SEARCH encouraged me to apply for this job.  He recognized that I would be great as a Breakfast Ambassador and I applied, interviewed, and was hired.

Cindy:  So, your internship was not the same as your current job?

Brandon: Yes, my internship was three months as a Lobby Attendant, three months in banquet, setting up for events, and three months as a Houseman, doing floors and housekeeping in different sections of the hotel.

Cindy:  What do you like most about your job?

Brandon: I really like the breakfast! Ha!  The people, they are like family.  I am passionate about the work and function of the hotel and the hospitality industry; we are here to serve.

John DeRosa, Director of Sales and Marketing and Liaison with the Project SEARCH program shared, “Embassy Suites is so fortunate to host Project SEARCH in partnership with Albertina Kerr.  Not only does this program offer real-life work experience for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but it offers our hotel a unique advantage of filling hard to fill positions with candidates who are ready to work.”

“Brandon has made a difference in the lives of our staff. He worked nine months in three rotations during his internship with Project SEARCH. Because of his hard work and dedication to the program, we hired him.“

Amplify! Success 2019 : The Benefits of Disability Inclusion in the Workforce

Join us October 16th, 1:00-5:00PM at Nike WHQ to hear the sounds of inclusion and learn about the many benefits of disability inclusion in the workplace.

For more information or to partner with us and become a sponsor of Amplify! Success 2019, contact Cindy Bahl @ 503-258-7715 or cindy@dirksecc.com

Amplify! Is an initiative of Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc. That includes two annual events, Amplify! Success in October and Amplify! Rock Stars in May.  Events are designed to inspire, empower and equip employers to create a more inclusive workplace for people with diverse abilities.

Disability Inclusion Drives Business Success

by: Becky Curran Kekula, Disability:IN, Disability Equality Index (DEI) Director

The Disability Equality Index (DEI) is the nation’s most trusted benchmarking tool on Disability Inclusion. It’s a joint initiative of Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).  The DEI educates Fortune 1000 companies and Am Law 200 firms on their disability inclusion efforts and provides concrete benchmarking data on industry trends.

Using historical, anonymized data from the DEI, a recent report “Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage”, found that companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting people with disabilities have outperformed their peers. This includes 28 percent higher revenue, double the net income and 30 percent higher economic profit margins. The report was published by Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. Want to learn more? Come hear Becky Curran Kekula’s keynote at the Amplify Summit.

About Becky Curran Kekula

Becky Curran Kekula is the Director of the Disability Equality Index (DEI) at Disability:IN and she also happens to be a little person. Becky received her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Providence College. Upon graduation, she sent out 1,000 job applications and went on 100 interviews, over the course of four months. After two temporary job assignments, she landed a temporary to hire position at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), an American talent and sports agency that’s regarded as a dominant and influential company in the talent agency business and manages numerous clients. She was a temporary employee for seven months and then continued her path as a permanent employee. After working for CAA, CBS Television Studios, and Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), along with launching a public speaking business, Becky accepted her current position in November 2017. She’s passionate about proving that disability inclusion is good for business by advising companies to engage with the DEI and all of the programs that Disability:IN has to offer.

Visit the Disability:IN website for more about Becky.

Amplify! Success 2019 : The Benefits of Disability Inclusion in the Workforce

Join us October 16th, 1:00-5:00PM at Nike WHQ to hear the sounds of inclusion and learn about the many benefits of disability inclusion in the workplace.

For more information or to partner with us and become a sponsor of Amplify! Success 2019, contact Cindy Bahl @ 503-258-7715 or cindy@dirksecc.com

Amplify! Is an initiative of Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc. That includes two annual events, Amplify! Success in October and Amplify! Rock Stars in May.  Events are designed to inspire, empower and equip employers to create a more inclusive workplace for people with diverse abilities.

BESThq Building Opportunities Through Minecraft

by: Cindy Bahl
Director of Business Development and Amplify! Events
Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc.

I have not played Minecraft, but I am learning there is great value in this creative and interactive online game.  According to minecraft.net, Minecraft is a “game about placing blocks and going on adventures” and players are given unlimited resources to build whatever they can imagine.  Players invite friends anywhere in the world to join their Realm and participate in the creation of their project where the sky is the limit!  What a great way to connect, learn, and create in a team environment for all ages and abilities!

Minecraft is also making strides by developing interest in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM), and because of a local Minecraft program developed by BESThq in Beaverton, a unique job opportunity has been created.

BESThq and their unique customized position will be featured during the educational breakout sessions at the 3rd Annual Amplify! Success event, October 16th, 1:00-5:00PM at Nike WHQ in Beaverton. “The Benefits of Disability Inclusion in The Workforce” theme will weave throughout the inspiring and informational program. Register today to learn how employers like BESThq are reaping the benefits of inclusion by matching skill sets to their business needs, affecting their culture and bottom line.

READ THE FULL STORY in the September issue of the Beaverton Resource Guide!

Amplify! Success 2019 : The Benefits of Disability Inclusion in the Workforce

For more information or to partner with us and become a sponsor of Amplify! Success 2019, contact Cindy Bahl @ 503-258-7715 or cindy@dirksecc.com

Amplify! Is an initiative of Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc. That includes two annual events, Amplify! Success in October and Amplify! Rock Stars in May.  Events are designed to inspire, empower and equip employers to create a more inclusive workplace for people with diverse abilities.

Local Boy Comes Home

one-more-week

By: Dr Richard Pimentel

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein.

Einstein was thought of as anything but a genius when he was young. Life for him was like a fish trying to climb a tree. Then he found his lake. Mathematics. His story is not unlike many of our own stories. We of course are not geniuses as Einstein was but we all have a spark of genius our “music within” that we seek to discover and a “lake” that we hope to find.

When I was disabled in Vietnam I was sent home to Portland Oregon. At the time I was very much felt like a fish trying to climb a tree. It was not till years later that I realized that I did not have to search for my lake. I was sent home to it. The Portland/Beaverton area gave me the support and encouragement that I needed to be a part of the early disability rights and inclusion movement in the United States and eventually around the world.

I would like to take this moment to give a “shout out” to the individuals, organizations and employers who provided me with the “lake” I needed to learn to swim.

Portland State. When I was told by the Veterans Administration that my hearing was too damaged to ever become a professional speaker the head of the speech department, Ben Padrow told me “nonsense.” He worked with me for five years to achieve my goal.

Pacific Power & Light. When I was a college student in the 1970s I was working with disabled Vietnam veterans to try to get them jobs. PP&L donated their auditorium to me to conduct free trainings for persons with disabilities in the Portland/Beaverton area on how to find employment and be successful on the job.

When I was unexpectedly invited to Washington DC to attend the President’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities I was a student and had no money to attend. PP&L raised funds and paid my way so I could learn and return and help persons with disabilities in our community.

U.S. National Bank of Oregon. When I was a student and had an untested idea to develop a supervisor training to change attitudes towards the hiring and development of employees with disabilities. U.S. bank offered to “donate 200 supervisors for me to “practice” on and help develop the program. That program eventually became the “Windmills” Changing the Perception of Abilities employer training that is not the international standard for diversity training for persons with disabilities.

Tektronix, Beaverton Oregon.  One of the first employers to use and support the Windmills program. One of the undisputed leaders in diversity, inclusion for all their employees. They were one of the first national employers to train their supervisors in disability awareness.

“The California Governors Committee on Employment of the Handicapped” In 1979 they funded a nationwide search to identify the most effective and innovative ideas to change employer attitudes toward the hiring and promoting of persons with disabilities. They identified Portland/Beaverton area as the leader in the country. They funded Oregon’s model internationally.

Art Honeyman. A Portland State student, a disability activist, poet and a staple at the “Saturday Market” in Portland. He taught me that there was more to disability than my own challenges.  He became a friend and mentor for life.

THE PORTLAND/BEAVERTON METRO AREA.  The seeds of the disability inclusion movement are not associated with the Portland Beaverton area simply because I lived there. It is because the area lived in me. Its values, its support, its philosophy and its standards became my lake. Without it I might still be trying to climb that tree.

Your company can be someone’s lake, the environment where your employees will find and in return give meaning. On October 19th I am coming home. I may have left our home many years ago but our home has never left me.

one-more-week

Why attend Amplify!?

Because disability inclusion matters.
It benefits business.
It benefits us all.

Why Amplify!?

By: Cindy Bahl, Business Development Manager & Amplify! Event Coordinator, Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc.

Why Amplify!?  

You may be asking yourself: Why is Amplify! important to me and my business?  Why should I attend the October 19th event?  How will this event make a difference in my company, in my diversity hiring and overall goals and success?  All good questions that deserve answers. Here are my top 3 reasons why you should attend:

  1. You will be inspired; I can almost guarantee it!  Our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Richard Pimentel (a PSU graduate and Portland native) has an amazing story he tells with his gift of speech, humor and poignant, real-life examples.  He will motivate and encourage you to find your own “Music Within” as well as help others find their music.   Get a preview by watching the movie trailer.
  2. You will be encouraged to look at the abilities of people in a new and diverse way.
  3. You will be challenged to consider how your personal unconscious bias may be affecting your ability to see the many benefits of hiring individuals who experience disabilities, specifically Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).

The previous blog post defined Amplify! as a tool to help employers learn how they can access an untapped workforce by including individuals with I/DD in their workplace. Amplify! Is a cultural movement designed to encourage and equip Oregon businesses to build their workforce and community through disability inclusiveness for people of ALL abilities.

Amplify! Will help you make some noise by:

Amping up your workforce and company culture

Amping up your diversity goals

Amping up our community

This is Amplify Success!  And you won’t want to miss it; October 19th, 2017 – 8:00-11:00am (Plus free breakfast and networking!)  Register Today!

What Is Amplify!?

By: Cindy Bahl, Business Development Manager & Amplify! Event Coordinator, Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc.

What Is Amplify!?

When you hear the word “Amplify” what do you think of? I think of music; sounds that resonate harmoniously and increase in volume and intensity. My friends who play the electric guitar or bass wouldn’t think of performing without their own amplifier to project their unique sounds. They practice and work hard to share the music but it must be amplified to be completely effective.

Amplify! Is an event designed to help the business community hear how they can access an untapped workforce and find skilled, reliable individuals with unique talents and abilities who can contribute to their company growth and success.

Amplify! Will shatter barriers and myths by educating employers on how to attain a more diverse workforce, by bringing motivated individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) into their workplace.

Amplify! Will help employers capture an understanding of their needs and goals, and collaborate with them to find the right fit and path. Results from Amplify! will focus on the individual first, whether a candidate or a hiring manager, to gain a clear picture of what each can bring to the table for a mutually beneficial working relationship.

Amplify! Is a cultural movement designed to:

Empower Your Workforce with training tools and assessments customized to meet specific business needs.

Affirm Abilities by helping businesses identify reliable, motivated candidates while promoting diversity and inclusiveness for people of ALL abilities.

Amplify Success! Speakers and follow up content will help businesses:

  • Improve bottom line through streamlined talent acquisition and retention
  • Encourage a stronger, diverse workforce to include individuals with I/DD
  • Develop an inclusive business culture
  • Help create a more vibrant community

Harmonious sound does not usually occur on its own; it happens when people and their instruments come together, collaborate, practice and perform. The result is accomplished with the help of an amplifier projecting the sounds created. Amplify! Will bring employers together and provide the instruments and tools to help create a more diverse culture with the end result being a productive, inclusive, collaborative workplace and community… this is Amplify Success!

Empower Your Workforce
Affirm Abilities
Amplify Success!