Careers in the New Year event to give local employers access to untapped talent

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Local business leaders who are interested in learning about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities are invited to attend an event at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce in late January.

Journeys in Community Living (JICL), a 40-year-old Murfreesboro-based nonprofit organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will host its 'Careers in the New Year' event at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 22.

The event is in response to huge changes promulgated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has stated that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who wish to work will as early as 2017 be expected to enter the competitive workforce alongside non-disabled workers.

Journeys currently serves 120 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, assisting them with everyday living needs, their healthcare and supporting them as they seek and obtain employment, according to Journeys Development Coordinator Mark Bell.

Until very recently, what was considered 'typical employment' for people with intellectual disabilities was going to work in 'workshops' ran by organizations that also service them in other areas of life, Bell said. In these segregated work environments, individuals completed piece work and their wages were based on how much work they were able to complete.

Under the new rules set by CMS, however, organizations will no longer be allowed to operate segregated workshops.

"What this means for Journeys is that we will be closing our Production Center and shifting our focus in the vocational services area to solely assisting individuals with obtaining competitive employment," Bell said. "This is not new for us. We have assisted several of the individuals we serve with obtaining competitive employment over the years. We'll just be doing it on a larger scale now."

Not only does Journeys support the changes recommended by CMS, Bell said, the organization understands that obtaining competitive employment is the next "logical" step towards total integration for people with intellectual disabilities.

"For many years now, the people we serve have owned their own homes, which we assist them in managing," Bell said. "This is just a logical step in the overall process of assisting them as they become more independent and take charge of their own lives."

Journeys now hopes to earn the support of local employers on a larger scale. To do so, it has planned the 'Careers in the New Year' event, at which the benefits of hiring people with disabilities will be highlighted. The event will be held on the third floor of the chamber building.

Lynnette Henderson, a representative of Tennessee Works, will be on hand to talk about the financial incentives associated with hiring people with disabilities, as well as the reductions in cost associated with lower turnover rates and retraining costs in the population, Bell explained. She will also highlight how employing people with disabilities will lead to increases in customer base, lower accident rates and an improvement in morale for local businesses.

Lauren Meeker, the vocational services director at Journeys, will also make a brief presentation about the programs at JICL and how the organization can assist businesses with their hiring needs.

While there will be no hiring commitment required to attend the free event, Journeys will have on hand information about each of the individuals the organization is currently supporting though the job-seeking process. The goal of the event is to educate employers about the great potential of this huge untapped pool of qualified candidates.

"We want this to be an event where there are no questions left unanswered about what it would be like to have these employees at your business," Bell said. "We know that if people would give these folks the opportunity, they will shine."

Those employers and hiring managers who are interested in attending the event only need to show up on the morning of the event, Bell said, where they will also be greeted with catering by Chick-fil-A Murfreesboro.

Need more details?

For more information about this event, employers are urged to contact Meeker at Journeys by calling 615-890-4389 or by emailing lauren.meeker@journeystn.org.

More information on Journeys can be found online at www.journeystn.org or by calling Mark Bell at 615-295-3046. Tour groups are welcome by appointment only.

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