Pro­gram to add 500 jobs for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties

The Arizona Republic - - Business - Cather­ine Reagor

Kregg Berk, a 49-year-old with autism, had been work­ing part-time cus­tomer ser­vice jobs but wanted his first full-time job.

“I was look­ing for a ca­reer change,” said Berk, who started work­ing full­time at the Ari­zona Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity last year. “Now I look for­ward to my job ev­ery day.”

Berk is one of the first peo­ple to get a job through a new Ari­zona pro­gram that trains and places peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, data anal­y­sis, cy­ber se­cu­rity and back of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tive jobs.

The pro­gram is called Phoenix Pre­ci­sion Project and it’s be­ing led by non­profit com­mu­nity de­vel­oper First Place and a Delaware IT and ad­min­is­tra­tive firm.

The goal of the project is to cre­ate as many as 500 jobs for peo­ple with autism and dis­abil­i­ties dur­ing the next three years.

The next goal for First Place and its govern­ment and pri­vate part­ners is to cre­ate 1,000 jobs for peo­ple with autism by 2025.

About 75 to 80 per­cent of peo­ple with autism in the U.S. are un­em­ployed or un­der­em­ployed, ac­cord­ing to Ernie Dianas­ta­sis, CEO of The Pre­ci­sion­ists.

“When prop­erly as­sessed, trained and em­ployed, peo­ple with autism and other de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties are high-per­form­ing in crit­i­cal and chal­leng­ing jobs,” he said.

Gov. Doug Ducey joined other Val­ley lead­ers to an­nounce the pro­gram at cen­tral Phoenix’s First Place, apart­ments de­vel­oped for adults with autism, on Tues­day.

“Ari­zona is a place where op­por­tu­nity for all means just that,” Ducey said. “What we are do­ing here should be a model for the rest of the U.S.”

The Pre­ci­sion Project plans to open an in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy cen­ter in the Val­ley in the next few months and add 10 ad­di­tional busi­ness and govern­ment clients by year end.

Al­ready, the Ari­zona Depart­ment of Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity, SRP and Mo­bile Mini are part of the pro­gram. They’re work­ing with firm The Pre­ci­sion­ists Inc. to use its dis­abil­ity em­ploy­ment model to cre­ate the jobs.

The firm also has em­ploy­ment cen­ters in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware and Nashville. Ex­elon En­ergy, In­de­pen­dence Blue Cross, Pfizer, UBS and Van­der­bilt Univer­sity all work with Pre­ci­sion­ists in those ar­eas to hire em­ploy­ees with autism and dis­abil­i­ties.

Michael Trailor, di­rec­tor of DES, said that agency cur­rently has five em­ploy­ees from Pre­ci­sion and plans to hire an­other six.

The state isn’t pro­vid­ing any sub­si­dies or fund­ing be­yond pay­ing em­ploy­ees it hires through the Phoenix Pre­ci­sion Project.

Denise Res­nik, founder First Place AZ, be­gan work­ing to bring the Pre­ci­sion project to Ari­zona two years ago.

“Pre­ci­sion­ists is pro­vid­ing unique em­ploy­ment so­lu­tions that com­ple­ment the in­no­va­tive hous­ing op­tions and com­mu­nity op­por­tu­ni­ties we are de­vel­op­ing,” she said.

The first res­i­dents of First Place in cen­tral Phoenix, the first apart­ments for adults with autism in Ari­zona, moved in last sum­mer. Many of the res­i­dents have jobs and use nearby light rail to travel to them.

First Place also pro­vides classes to help res­i­dents and non-res­i­dents with autism find jobs and live in­de­pen­dently.

Zachary Brown, a 20-year-old with autism, has taken classes through First Place and its part­ners.

“My job re­quires at­ten­tion to de­tail, and I have dis­cov­ered over the years that’s my strong­est skill,” said Zachary Brown, who is part of the Pre­ci­sion pro­gram and works in the record man­age­ment group at SRP.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.