Employment First: When Everyone Works, Everyone Wins
Welcome to the web site of the Delaware Employment First Oversight Commission.
Chronic unemployment and underemployment of persons with disabilities have huge social costs. According to a June 2015 news release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed; in contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 64.6 percent. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm, retrieved August 10, 2015.) Shocking? Yes, shocking — and unnecessary.
Employment First is a philosophy and public policy in Delaware and many other states. Employment First means that competitive employment - the same kind of employment that most people have - should be the first choice for persons with disabilities. The Employment First Oversight Commission exists for the purpose of making that happen.
The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) is there to help providing services for the Job Seeker, Employers and Vendors. For more information please visit their site: http://dvr.delawareworks.com/index.php.
Nothing promotes success like real-life stories of success. And so we are delighted to use this welcome page of our web site to tell you about Delaware residents who - despite their challenges - are competing successfully in the job market.
Five Delawareans with disabilities are profiled on their paths to employment.
Tom Blatz is well-liked by all. Tom worked with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Sue Kamrath to begin his employment journey. He and DVR partnered with St. John’s Community Services in 2015. His first position, at a local pharmacy, wasn’t the right fit, b. But he did not become discouraged. Tom had expressed a keen interest in horticulture during the job discovery process, and he is now working full-time at Lowe’s Garden Center, a job that he loves. He is truly the “guy next door”, sharing his winning smile with his new co-workers and his community. Employment First was the right choice for Tom.
Jenna Seeman recalls that her vocational quest didn’t get off to a great start when she arrived at ServiceSource in May 2011. However, she desperately wanted to obtain that first job. She worked hard with employment consultant Jim Crampton to turn things around. After several months of searching, a cashier’s position opened up at Dover Save-a-Lot. Four years later, Jenna is still on the job part time at Save-a-Lot. But her career continues to develop. In 2014 she completed a Certified Nursing Assistant program at Delaware Tech. Jenna now also works as a licensed CNA at Genesis Milford Memorial Hospital. Nothing’s holding her back!
Nick Fina’s hearing loss has challenged him since before he started kindergarten in 1952. Between 1969 and 2009 he earned two degrees in chemistry, an MBA, and a doctorate in education. Today, in the 44th year of his professional career, he earns an income as a marketing and information technology consultant. As a volunteer, he works on behalf of others with disabilities. Although he no longer has an ability to hear with his ears, he functions in the hearing world with the help of cochlear implants and accommodations.
Lakeita Hannah returned to Delaware in 2011 after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Strayer University in Georgia. Following two years in a successful e-commerce business, she sought the help of the Division for the Visually Impaired in order to obtain work that would provide more financial security. With DVI’s help, she located a customer service position at CapitalOne in the fall of 2014. She is able to do most of her work from home — a big plus. Lakeita has registered with CapitalOne’s Career Consulting Program in order to pursue a marketing career.
Andrew Fischer was initially interested in pursuing a culinary arts career and entered the Food Bank of Delaware’s culinary program. But within a month he determined it wasn’t the employment path for him. Following seven months of handyman volunteer work with Edgemoor Community Center’s maintenance department, an opening at Lowes Home Improvement Center came up in January 2015. Today, Andrew earns a paycheck at Lowe’s assisting customers with locating, carrying, and loading merchandise into their vehicles.
After a childhood with low vision, Lloyd Schmitz lost his sight completely as a young adult. For more than 10 years he had no employment at all, struggling to raise a family. Finally, he entered a food service program and operated cafeterias and vending machines in state and federal buildings. This gave him the opportunity to buy a house, and then another larger one. Lloyd is an active member of the community, serving on several boards and commissions. He has been a member and president of two local Lions Clubs.
Alyssa Cowin, 24, is an operations support specialist in the office of Secretary of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf. She works in the areas of human resources and public relations. Her responsibilities include taking pictures at events, posting pictures on the DHSS Facebook page, shredding papers, delivering mail, assembling information packets, and helping with office organization tasks. She credits her parents, Goodwill Industries, the Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities Services, and others in helping her face challenges and work toward her goals.
Stephane Merritt has quadriplegia as a result of a 1976 swimming accident. For the past 19 years he has worked full time as an account specialist, paying bills for the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Being able to work gives him great satisfaction. “I can look myself in the mirror, knowing that I’m contributing to society,” he says. With the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, he has his own van, so that he’s not dependent on public transportation. Stephane is also delighted that the people he works with pay no attention to his wheelchair, viewing him as just another employee.
Santino Ceccotti is an Assistant Public Defender in the Appellate Unit of the Delaware Public Defenders Office. He currently chairs the Delaware State Bar Association Committee on legal professionals with disabilities. He also serves on the board of the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. From 2011 to 2014 he served as a member of the Delaware State Bar Association Executive Committee. In 2012 Santino was the recipient of the Delaware State Bar Association’s Profiles in Courage Award.
Brett Freeburg, Caprice Sedden, and Nick Godwin worked as concession station attendants at the 2015 home games of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. In the spring of 2015, the three had just completed their first year in the ServiceSource Delaware FrameWork for Success School to Careers program. Working on a two-on, one-off schedule, Brett, Caprice, and Nick were responsible for keeping all concession areas in Frawley Stadium clean and properly stocked with condiments, utensils, and paper products — a great addition to their resumes as they launch their careers.