Region V Services is taking an employment first approach with the people it serves.
The agency, with offices located in Hebron and Fairbury, is dedicated to working with those who have developmental disabilities.
Through a grant received by the Developmental Disabilities Council, Region V employed the services of Darla Wilkerson, owner and consultant for CSI Network, to train staff how to put together classes for individuals seeking job coaching. The program is part of a five year process Region V has been developing to focus on employment opportunities for the developmentally disabled.
Once staff have been trained in job coaching, they will teach career courses for those with disabilities. The course is seven weeks long with one class per week and eight individuals enrolled, according to Lori Svanda, Region V employment consultant.
In the class, participants discover their strengths and interests in order to find positions that will best fit the needs of employers and employees. Those taking the class will work on interview skills as well as their resumes.
“It’s just like an employment agency,” said Svanda. “We do the same thing: ‘what do we need to do to get a job like that?’”
Most participants will not be working 40 hours a week, according to Svanda.
“Most will be working 2-15 hours a week depending on the jobs,” said Svanda.
Once the participants have completed the course, the staff at Region V tries to find them a job that will fit his/her abilities and interests as well as employers’ needs.
The staff at Region V has found that the best way to match individuals with potential employers is by word of mouth and personal connections.
“The more information we get out there, the better,” said Tammy Hinrichs, Region V area director. “A majority of employment is through personal connections … so it’s just about getting word out there and networking with different employers.”
“This is a small community but a very accepting one,” said Lisa Meyer, community support coordinator at Region V.
The staff have even formed a networking group with other community members to find potential employers.
“We are always looking to match people up,” said Hinrichs. “We would be willing to meet with an employer at any time who contacts our office.”
Once an individual is matched up to an employer, the staff wish for him/her to be as self-supporting as possible but are willing to step in to assist if needed.
“We want them to be as independent on the job site as they can be,” said Svanda. “We help and do job support and job checks. If there’s a problem, we go back in … and help with whatever skills they need to practice.”
If there is an issue, coaches assist with job skills that need to be practiced outside of the workplace.
The job coach is at no cost to the employer.
Success stories Region V has had with employment matches include a man who has worked for Blue Valley Nursing Home in Hebron for 20 years, a woman who has worked at the Deshler Post Office for a year, a woman who has worked at the Hebron Subway for four years and a man who has worked as a dishwasher at Mary’s Cafe for two years.
“It provides better quality of life,” said Hinrichs. “They want the same things we want.”
Region V works with over 900 individuals in southeast Nebraska.
There are currently offices in Auburn, Crete, David City, Fairbury, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Wahoo and York. There are satellite programs in Beatrice, Columbus, Gretna, Hebron and Seward.