The Power of Connections in Job Hunting: Skills for RI's Future and PCSEPP

By Sara Porcaro | Aug 24, 2021
PCSEPP, BHDDH, Employment, Opportunity, IDD, Disabilities, Rhode Island, ADA, Empower, Equality, Job Seeker
PCSEPP Participants Touring CINTAS

There's an age-old Catch-22 in the world of employment: a job requires experience, but one can't get experience without a job. But that isn't the only employment barrier that many job seekers face in today's market; beyond that, even qualified candidates are often overlooked for a candidate with an inside ear to a company, as referrals and connections can often provide the extra push a hiring manager needs to make a decision. That's why, in the Person Centered Supported Employment Performance Program (PCSEPP), our partners are dedicated to helping participants meet new people, tour new workplaces, and make lasting connections!
In PCSEPP, which is funded by the Rhode Island Division of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), participants find a valuable opportunity to discover their interests, build their skills, and use technology, like video resumes and self advocacy films, to support their candidacy. Whether one chooses to start their employment journey through Perspectives, AccessPoint RI, or the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, they have access to tools and resources through Able Opportunities, Inc. and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston. However, one priceless perk of the program is the ability to tap into a huge network of employers across the state--helping to not only find, but create new job opportunities from the ground up--with Skills for Rhode Island's Future.
"It's always been SkillsRI's mission to help all of our customers equally, from job seekers to employers," says SkillsRI's Senior Manager of Supported Employment, Danna Spencer, "and with PCSEPP, we've been able to not only foster relationships with employers, but work with them to build customized roles for our candidates."
Danna, who has spent the first thirty years of her career working in human services, brings a wealth of experience to the table as SkillsRI's navigator to employment in the PCSEPP program. Since her start as a Treatment Specialist at The Groden Center, Inc., she's been an advocate and mentor to the individuals she served, and in the last ten years of her time there, she specifically worked to support individuals in finding jobs throughout the state. However, the experience of helping individuals identify their dream jobs and finding them was daunting, as maintaining relationships with employers is no easy feat for a single Job Developer, who has to become the inside connection with an employer that so many job seekers need to land a position at a company.
"When you're one Job Developer pounding the pavement, it only takes one change to occur--someone leaving the organization or business, for example--for the relationship to disappear, and the job opportunities to go with it," Danna explains. "That's why having an organization dedicated to cultivating, managing, and tracking those relationships and outcomes is so important."
The team at Skills for Rhode Island's Future is one dedicated to serving the unemployed and underemployed workforce across our state. With funding from the Department of Labor and Training, this nonprofit organization works day in and day out to match talented, enthusiastic candidates with new opportunities. Partners like Electric Boat, Cargill, Fidelity, and Amtrol are but a few of the many employers SkillsRI works with to understand their hiring needs and offer workforce solutions. In her work with employers, Danna and her team gauge their interest in coming aboard with PCSEPP and begin the work to create or carve out opportunities specific to an eager, yet still largely untapped workforce.
"Many employers are looking to diversify their workforce as it is," Danna notes, "so they're open to learning what accommodations could be made to hire individuals with disabilities, and they're seeing the talent this workforce has to offer."
And with the COVID-19 pandemic making the workforce shortage all the more acute for so many employers, the door to new job opportunities has been opened wider. Not only are employers willing to learn more about diversity and invite different types of talent onto their teams; they're also happy to find so many enthusiastic, dedicated candidates waiting to lend their talents to their business, and happy to help develop new customized roles that fit everyone's needs and abilities. Through PCSEPP, and with the help of SkillsRI, jobseekers in the I/DD community are able to hone and showcase their talents, while they and their potential employers learn about each other and how they can help each other. It's a win-win for everyone, and with the importance of integrated employment, as well as SkillsRI's mission to provide employment assistance to underserved populations, the work is extending beyond PCSEPP. Now, SkillsRI has its eye on how to make its operations, including its website and standard protocols, more accessible to all Rhode Islanders looking to use their services.
"Where there's a challenge, there's also opportunity," Danna says, "and we're excited to take the lessons we've learned from PCSEPP further into the organization. We want job seekers of all abilities to be able to easily navigate and use our services to help land their dream job."
With SkillsRI's partnership, the individuals we support have access to countless opportunities, no matter what their interests are or where they live in the state. The critical advantage of partnering with an organization like SkillsRI is in their connections to a vast network of employer partners and with an understanding and equal interest in leveling the playing field for all jobseekers. We're so glad to have them on the team, and you can learn more about SkillsRI when you check out their website at www.skillsforri.com !
If you or someone you know is interested in joining the program and discovering the path to a career you can feel good about, reach out to Perspectives' Employment Team at employmentservices@perspectivescorporation.com, or call (401) 294-3990.


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