Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AtWork! Supports It’s Mission Through Fees, Contributions, and Earned Income

Excerpt from an interview with Chris Brandt, AtWork! CEO, on NW Focus. Click here to see the entire interview.

We will work with people who do not have funding through the Division of Developmental Disabilities or the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and we are doing that now. Some families are privately paying because they know that paying for a bit of service for a time period will help their son or daughter become stable in their employment and get a job. AtWork! is a 501(c)3 private non-profit organization. We charge a fee for our services either to the government who pays us for providing services on a monthly basis or for achieving outcomes. We find a person a job we get paid. People who aren’t eligible for those funding sources can pay us with a similar fee on a sliding scale to provide services.

Beyond fees we have a number of ways of raising revenue to support our mission. We operate several lines of business. We have a landscaping business, we have recycling center in Issaquah and packing and assembly business and this month we’re launching a new line of business, USArchive powered by AtWork!. It is a document management business. We can do document imaging, secure storage and document destruction for all types of government and private businesses.

We operate these businesses to generate revenue for our mission but also to have opportunities for people with disabilities to discover their talents. If someone doesn’t have any work experience and are not sure what kind of work they’d like to do we might want to do an assessment and discovery process. They may work for a while in each of those businesses and also at the same time they might work in the community trying find a place for those skills to match up with an employer.

We also do fundraising so we get support from the community and individuals. If you go to www.atworkwa.org you can donate and you can help us transform lives of people with disabilities and change the face of employment. Having a person with disabilities employed in every business in our state would be a wonderful thing.

You can also click on the Recycle button. We are one of the E-Cycle Washington drop off locations. If you have TV, computer or monitor that you want to recycle safely you can drop them off at the AtWork! Recycle Center in Issaquah (970 7th Ave NW) for FREE and we will sell them to support our mission. The Recycle Center also serves as a skill building opportunity for the people we serve as well as a revenue source.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How People With Disabilities Choose AtWork!

Excerpt from an interview with Chris Brandt, AtWork! CEO, on NW Focus. Click here to see the entire interview.

We are trying to start with students with disabilities in high school at younger and younger ages every year. Right now we are looking to secure some funds so we can work with younger students in high school at around age 14 or so. We coordinate with the high school as they work on academic and vocational skills and align with an employment agency like AtWork! The goal is to insure that they graduate with a job. We typically work with students in their transition programs who are in their last year or two of high school. For students with developmental disabilities that is at age 20 or 21. They stay in high school until age 21. They have a few more years of that support and training. We know by working with those students in helping them to get a job that if a student graduates with a job they are much more likely get employed and stay employed.

Really the future of our clients is working with those students at young and younger ages. Right now that is a smaller portion of the people we serve but we want that to grow over time and make sure that that high school education is resulting in a job. Most of the people we serve are people 21 right up to 62. The majority of our clients are 25 to 35. They’re in the prime of their working careers, are ready and eager and are out there looking for jobs. They want to work for an employer and make a big difference in their company.

Most of the people we serve are referred to us from Division of Developmental Disabilities or the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation or from school districts through their school to work and transition programs. People with disabilities choose us actually. They may look at several different providers of employment serves, AtWork! being one of them. They may be looking at the staff, looking at the support and job opportunities and the success of that organization. Then they find the employment provider that best matches their needs. Typically they choose a provider that is close to where they live. People with disabilities are typically more successful if they work close to home. Most of them use public transportation and ACCESS transportation to get to work so it’s easier if they are closer. Nobody wants to spend a couple of hours on the bus going to and from, traffic is bad enough as it is. They’ll look for geographic location and success of outcomes. Are we actually doing what we say we do, are our services personalized? Then they pick us through an interview process.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Businesses Find Out ABout AtWork!

Excerpt from an interview with Chris Brandt, AtWork! CEO, on NW Focus. Click here to see the entire interview.

How Businesses Find Out About AtWork!?

We sometimes choose them and they sometimes choose us. Often it’s a testimonial from another business. We also try and do a lot of outreach to employers. AtWork! holds an annual fundraising and community event in the spring where we honor a community supporter. This year we honored Dunn Lumber who has a person with a disability working in 9 of their 12 stores and they want to hire a person with a disability in all of their stores. By having a video about Dunn Lumber’s experience hiring with people with disabilities on our website [right side, halfway down the home page] we’re reaching out to more businesses and to more employers. We’re always looking for ways to reach out and let employers know we’re here. We’re always looking at our branding and marketing.

Our vision is that in the future when employers are thinking about hiring people or looking at ways of improving productivity and efficiency they’ll think about us. This is sort of a new thing. We’ve been building towards this and in our long term vision we want to be the placement agency of the future. When an employer thinks about a job that needs to be done they will think to call AtWork! or one of the organizations all across Washington State that serves people with disabilities because they heard from someone in their Rotary or Kiwanis Club or from a business down the street that was really successful in hiring a person with disabilities in their business.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Excerpt from an interview with Chris Brandt, AtWork! CEO, on NW Focus. Click here to see the entire interview.

Nationally the unemployment rate of people with significant disabilities is 75%. Look at what is happening to our economy with a nearly 10% unemployment rate and imagine how devastating that is to a group of people who want to work and have so much to contribute that the unemployment rate is so high. In Washington State it its less. It’s more like 55% or so, because of the Working Age Adult Policy and innovations that AtWork! and other programs have been able to develop. We’ve done a better job of placing people.

Think about 6,000 people with developmental disabilities, and that means cognitive and physical disabilities, who worked in Washington State last year. They earned about $42 million in wages. That’s a big contribution to our economy and is really recognized as an opportunity for employers to take advantage of the unique talents that a person with disabilities brings to their business.

It also increases their market share because 1 in 4 people either is a person with a disability or knows someone who has a disability or is related to someone with a disability or has a neighbor with a disability. People with disabilities who earn income buy things and their families and friends buy things. A lot of people care about businesses who employ people with disabilities, they see them as more community minded and supportive, and so they take their business there.

My neighbor Thad is employed at Kozy Kennels so that’s where I’m going to take my dog for boarding. I’ve seen how much he cares for and loves the dogs and I know my dog is getting extra special care at Kozy Kennels. Those kinds of relationships for businesses are very important.

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