PIQUA — Some call it an integrated placement. Edison State Community College calls it building community.
Through a partnership with Capabilities, Inc., Edison State strives to provide internship opportunities and career exploration for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Through this partnership, Edison State has hosted Tony Muhlenkamp of Russia, in Student Affairs, Valerie Leanza, of Troy, in Environmental Services, and Denise Dalton, of West Milton, in the Library and Student Affairs. Four days a week, Muhlenkamp, Leanza and Dalton contribute to the operations of the College and in doing so are given the opportunity to learn, develop, and enhance valuable job skills in a real-world setting.
As the interns gain hands-on job experience, they have already built strong relationships with colleagues and students that they get to see every day at Edison State. Some of these relationships lend themselves to becoming the source of professional references when their internships are over and they are looking for jobs in the larger community.
“These three look forward to the fact that they have the opportunity to build relationships with co-workers and people they get to see everyday,” said Bonnie Riell, Community and Career Consultant for Capabilities, Inc. “There are students that know Denise, Tony, and Valerie personally which makes it nice for them to see some familiar faces.”
Because of the diverse career opportunities available, Capabilities, Inc. has found Edison State to be an ideal workplace for internship candidates to experience several career fields and hone in on areas that fit their desires. Though Muhlenkamp, Leanza and Dalton currently work in customer service and maintenance functions, they have the potential to gain experience in other various departments throughout the College.
“Edison State is an excellent partner for people with disabilities. With all of the different jobs on campus, people can get a good idea of what jobs they like and what jobs they would perform well,” said Karen Blumhorst, CEO of Capabilities, Inc. “Once they know that they can also gain some valuable recent experience for their resume. It is much easier to find a job once you have a current experience. We believe that this collaboration will help hundreds of people find a job.”
In 2007, the governor of Ohio launched the Employment First initiative that encourages every agency, school, organization and individual within Ohio’s developmental disabilities system to focus on what can be done to provide the best support and service to enable people to choose and succeed in community employment. Conversations of this particular initiative started with the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
“We knew we needed to take a team approach to this initiative and we are thrilled to have Edison State as part of our larger team,” said Justin Blumhorst, Chief Operating Officer for Capabilities, Inc.
“Our company was founded in 1997 and here we are almost 20 years later serving over 2,200 people annually.”
Those seeking employment include people who are lacking work experience, those coming from segregated work backgrounds, and people who are returning to the workforce following an injury.
“The intern placements strive to replicate actual job needs and intern strengths. Ultimately, the goal is for these interns to be hired because it makes sense and they are a great fit for a certain job and they’re not just being hired for the sake of being hired,” added Blumhorst.
“Just in our presence at Edison State, we notice staff members who come to us and say, “I have a brother who, I have a cousin who…” and so we realize there are people out there that are looking for this type of service.”
Some other sites that have hosted interns through Capabilities, Inc. include the Meijer Distribution Center in Tipp City, various Kroger locations, and such Piqua locations as Wal-Mart, UPS, and Piqua Manor.
In 2015, Capabilities, Inc. assisted 489 people with disabilities to secure their own, individualized employment. Of those people, 38 were Darke County residents, 50 were Miami County residents, 28 were Shelby County residents, and 93 were Montgomery County residents.
Capabilities, Inc. aims to provide people with differing abilities the maximum support needed to successfully achieve and sustain their goals. Headquartered in St. Marys, the organization holds accreditation from CARF. In addition to providing community integration services, Capabilities, Inc. also provides help in the areas of community employment services, driving services, career exploration services, professional training, and technology services.