January 29, 2019 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes Gerald Homme, product manager of Bender’s Careers 2B competency-based workforce development program, Leanne Thomas, account manager for Bender Consulting Services, Inc., and Jenny Homme, business analyst with Highmark Health Solutions to the show.  Each guest will explain their role in the Careers 2B program, which is designed to increase the professional level experience and marketability of early career professionals with disabilities. Founded in conjunction with Bayer Corporation and Bayer MaterialScience LLC  (now Covestro) the objective of Careers2B is for people with disabilities to gain the work experience required to increase their marketability to prospective employers. Careers2B addresses the lack of work experience that has been identified as a major and systemic barrier to employment for individuals with disabilities.  Each guest will share how they got involved in the disability community and in advancing the mission the Careers 2B program.

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Bender Consulting ServIces


JANUARY 29, 2019

1:00 P.m. CT


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>> Welcome to Disability Matters with your host, Joyce Bender. All comments, views, and opinions expressed are those of the hosts, guests, and callers. Now the host of Disability Matters, here's Joyce Bender.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, welcome to the show, everyone. Hope you are having a great day. And I hope you're not in too, too cold of weather. Well, here we go. What am I going to say? I'm going to say a special shout out to Yoshiko Dart. Yoshiko, can you believe next year is the 30th anniversary of the signing of the ADA? And to all of my listeners, I am right now looking at this shadowbox with a copy of the original ADA right here, original ADA with one of the pens that President Bush distributed with the ticket to go that day, and with notes from Commissioner Evan Kemp, some notes about what he was going to say that day.

And this was given to me by his wife. And it is such a treasure to me. But Yoshiko, you know who's in that picture? Justin Dart, right up on that platform with President Bush. So, next year, 30th anniversary. Hey, everyone. 30th anniversary, let's get that needle moved to employment. How can it be that 70% of Americans with disabilities are still not counted in the workforce when next year is the 30th anniversary? This has to be a big, big year so we see that needle moving up. And, Ireland. You know, I don't know, Ireland. We have 17 countries and I'm looking at the data right now as I'm speaking to you, although right behind you is Australia.

You are still double the amount. Now, as I've said on every show, I don't know what's going on in Ireland, but it's great. Whatever it is, whoever you disability rights leaders are, keep it up. I'm so proud of you. And certainly our lead sponsor, Highmark, thank you so much for being the lead sponsor of this show and for the first few months of the year, AudioEye. AudioEye is a great source with a software product for digital accessibility. Highmark, you're just the high mark for other companies to follow.

Well, today I have three of my favorite people. Who could they be? They are people working for Bender Consulting Services that I am so proud. I always say I'm so lucky, I have the greatest staff in the world. And with us today is Gerald Homme, the product manager of Careers2B program, Leanne Thomas, the account manager, and Jenny Homme -- I'm sorry. Jenny used to work for me, but she's still part of our family. Jenny now works as an Associate Business Systems Analyst for HM Health Solutions. Hey, everyone. Welcome to the show.

>> Good to be here.

>> GERALD HOMME: Thanks for having us, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Okay, well, Gerald, I'm actually starting with you. And no, you're not going to be talking about music, which I know you love to talk about so much. But would you mind sharing with our listeners how you became involved in the disability community?

>> GERALD HOMME: Sure. So I've been involved in the disability community from a young age, because my father is blind. So I -- my father, working as a primary bread-earner for our family. He worked, actually, at Highmark as a developer. He was the very first person that you, Joyce, placed into the job with a disability. So I got to grow up thinking that was fine for my dad to work. He got on the bus just like everyone else. And he went to work and came home. And it wasn't until when I got older and I started to see that people treated my dad differently because he was blind that there was something different there, that that was something special and unique because, you know, he had to overcome stigma to gain that job.

And then not long after that, I ended up realizing that I myself was a member of a disability community. I have learning disabilities. I have dyslexia and dysgraphia and I was diagnosed in the fourth grade, when my handwriting started becoming really bad. And basically it was when they started teaching cursive and I had to completely rewire the way that I wrote. All of a sudden I couldn't complete my writing assignments. It would be so illegible that I would spend literally hours at home trying to rewrite the same sentences over and over and over again just to get them to a point where I wouldn't be docked points off of my grades because of poor handwriting.

And literally I went from a straight A student to barely passing or in some cases, failing my classes just due to my handwriting. And it took a while to get that diagnosis to figure out what was happening. And then it took a lot longer to get people to understand that that diagnosis was something legitimate and they needed to accommodate it, to work with it, as it is a learning disability. So it's still something that, you know, I advocate for. So not many people are aware of what dysgraphia is. So still working on that. But then got the chance to start working in the disability community. I've been working at Bender and been involved in impacting positive change to help people like me get great jobs.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. And what a great addition, Gerald, that you have been. What a great addition. And you know, obviously, I just told you about Ireland and Australia, not to mention the United States. But we have listeners throughout the world that I'm sure have never heard of Careers2B. Would you mind telling everyone what Careers2B is, what is that program?

>> GERALD HOMME: Yeah. So it's a competency-based workforce development program that was originally founded with a combination of Bender Consulting Services and Bayer Corporation. I love the program because the name is a pun, because the two Bs were Bayer and Bender when it was set up. But it was kicked off in 2007 and it addresses the lack of -- professional experience barrier to gaining employment. Everybody has heard of this before. You go to apply for a job and all these positions you're applying for require experience. Or you interview somewhere and you've just gotten out of school and you find out I didn't get picked because I don't have experience.

You can't get a job unless you have work experience. Well, how are you supposed to get work experience if no one will hire you? So this problem exists, this catch-22, for everybody. But it hits the disability community even harder because of the stigma that's out there against individuals with disabilities. So in 2007 we partnered with Bayer to figure out how to overcome this barrier and we created this program for one year, contract positions where the company that we work with would hire somebody without work experience into a full-time contract position. They would work for Bender on-site at the company for a year, be able to develop skills, competencies, and gain experience working in a corporate setting that is so valuable to starting your career.

And then at the end of that contract, that company has the opportunity to bring that person into a position which often happens because they've invested time, resources, and, you know, training of this person. And this person is a great employee for them. So of course they want to keep them on as a great addition to their team. But if that's not something that's an option for that organization, we then heavily promote that candidate to the business community with this year of valuable experience that they've gained. We now do this with a ton of different companies in the Pittsburgh region and throughout the U.S., with, you know, Bayer, Highmark, Med Express, Nova Chemicals, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, FedEx, Brown, Gateway Health, just to name a few.

And you just celebrated last year over a hundred people in this program moving into permanent roles at the end of their, you know, this program. So we've had a hundred participants go through this and well over 95% of them have moved into these permanent roles. So we've seen a huge positive impact on the entry-level workforce of individuals with disabilities from this.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. And that is so awesome, because just as Gerald said, before we started this -- and still today we have to explain this to companies. I will go to someone and I will say yes, we have these great candidates. And they will say oh, do they have experience? And as Gerald said, how do you get experience if no one will open the door? And how would people with disabilities have experience if they have double the unemployment rate of the non-disabled, and if 70% are not even counted in the workforce? So this just is so awesome, because it breaks down that barrier.

And Leanne Thomas, you are just the great account manager that keeps me in line here at Bender. But you've known me for a long time. How about if you tell our listeners how you first became involved working with Bender?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: Thank you, Joyce, I appreciate the opportunity. So, I am coming up on six years of working with Bender Consulting Services, which has been my privilege. But before that I actually worked for the Computer Sciences Corporation. So when I transitioned from DuPont to CSC, which is now DXC Technology, in 1998, we reached out to Joyce and Bender because we wanted the best candidates. So we didn't want to leave any group out. So we reached out to Joyce to say we want to start hiring people with disabilities. So back in 1998, they needed somebody who would be a liaison.

So I picked up that role to work between our hiring managers, and then with Bender in finding the right candidates for the right fit. Because remember, this is a business need here. Companies want the best candidates. And you can't leave a group of workforce out there and not include them. So we worked with each of the hiring managers. We started in Delaware. Then we worked through Texas, the Washington, D.C. area, across the U.S. We started out with hiring four the first year. But one year we actually hired 60 people through this partnership. And this partnership still goes on today, which just shows you how much it means and what value our candidates bring to a company.

And they do hire them as contractors, or they'll do direct hire, convert them later. So we've had great success through the years. And then when I retired from CSC, I came to work for Joyce because this is something I loved doing at CSC and wanted to continue not only that partnership, but have that opportunity to work with other companies.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And we are so lucky to have you. And I still remember -- this is when Leanne worked for computer science. And Leanne was in operations and then human resources. I remember when she called me and said, are you ready to go national? Because we started working just in Delaware and Pittsburgh. And all of a sudden there we go all across the United States and then all the way to Canada. And if it weren't for Leanne, that partnership would not have taken off like that. Leanne, I was I thinking about the other day, GIS, right?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: Yes. That was one of the first groups with Russ Owen, if you remember from way back, where we started this whole program. And it has grown from there. And every leader, I can say, has been very supportive of this. And what I found is the managers that I've worked with through the years and still continue to keep in touch with even though I'm over with Bender, they just love the program. They have had such great success and great people that came from Bender working for them that have such loyalty to the company and provide such great skills and perspective.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, because remember, at Bender Consulting, our main heart and soul of Bender is talent programs. In other words, working with companies and agencies and recruiting for them so they can hire people with disabilities across the United States in IT, finance, engineering, human resources, procurement, all across the board, all different business disciplines. And from a public sector perspective, we work with the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense. So any company listening to this show wanting to hire a person with a disability should contact Bender Consulting at benderconsult.com. And anyone listening to the show with a disability seeking employment, make sure you contact us right away at benderconsult.com.

Now, we have an example of a success story from the Careers2B program who is a wonderful person, Jenny Homme, who is an Associate Business Systems Analyst at HM Health Solutions, which is Highmark. So, Jenny, you participated in this program at Highmark and now you're in this permanent role at Highmark. What did this Careers2B program mean to you?

>> JENNY HOMME: First of all, thanks, Joyce, for having me. I'm so glad to be able to share my experience and, you know, with Gerald's perspective on growing up and wondering hey, they have the same last name we do, Gerald is my older brother. But for me, Careers2B was such an amazing experience. And, you know, when going through college, I had a lot of struggles, specifically pertaining to my disability. And, you know, a lot of things in college didn't go as planned, I guess is a good way to put it, because, you know, my disability -- I let it hold me back. And I think that's the key, you know.

It wasn't that I wasn't able. I let it, you know, affect me in college. So Careers2B has really given me a new perspective on everything. And I think, you know, sitting here now after transitioning, looking back at the entire experience, the personal growth that I had because of the Careers2B program is outstanding. And, you know, Joyce, something you always say is competitive jobs mean freedom. And it's so true because, you know, I feel so much more free in my life now; because I'm able to contribute. I'm able to work and do all of these things that I wanted to do but I let myself be held back because of my disability.

So, you know, with Careers2B, I think the biggest thing is you're given that ability to perform what you do best. You're now able to walk into a role and not have this feeling that other people are going to hold you back because of your disability. You're working for a company that includes individuals with disabilities in the workforce, encourages, you know, people of all different backgrounds to come together and work together. And being a part of a program that embraced that allowed me to do things I never thought I would do. It's allowed me to go see the right doctors that I needed to see and a ton of other things that I probably wouldn't have done without this experience.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Right, because employment gives you a sense of dignity and respect. I always tell people the number one question you are asked is: what is your name? Number two, what do you do. And it's a sad day when that day is always, nothing, unemployed. And when you have that job, as Jenny, you know, was talking about, it just changes everything, everything, all parts of your life, not just financial, but that dignity, that self-esteem, social, new friends, the ability to do things. It just changes everything. And people with disabilities are so appreciative to gain that opportunity to work.

I always tell customers, you hire a person with a disability and you will see that return on investment. Jenny, now that you're working at Highmark Health Solutions, can you talk a little bit about the work you've done in a very hot topic area today, which is digital accessibility.

>> JENNY HOMME: Yeah, love to. So, you know, digital accessibility, as you said, it's definitely a hot topic. You know, the whole basis of the work is inclusion, but in the digital space, so ensuring that, you know, digital content, websites, applications, documents, whatever it might be, if you're using it on a computer, making sure that everyone has equal access to the same information, can perform the same information, pretty much, you know, it's all about equality, being able to make sure that everyone can do the same thing. So within, you know, the realm of what I'm doing, I've been working on kind of an internal initiative here focused on trying to assess our website for accessibility.

And then once we assess those, making sure that we are helping out developers, helping out BAs, team managers, whoever it might be to move the needle, get it to where it needs to be to become accessible. So, you know, my role in this has been more along, you know, the business analyst perspective, but also acting as the subject-matter expert, as Gerald mentioned earlier. Our father is blind, so everything I know about digital accessibility I learned working with him. So at this point, you know, I'm kind of the subject-matter expert internally about digital accessibility.

And I've been, you know, having lots of conversations with developers looking at websites, assessing them, helping our team of digital accessibility testers assess them, and really just trying to make impactful change in the digital space for everyone.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. And it is, again, you know, I'll never forget this. I'll never forget when I heard someone at the Department of Justice several years ago when she was speaking at the White House panel on accessibility and she said if you want to hire people with disabilities, if you don't have an accessible site -- website, home page -- how the heck are you going to hire someone with a disability if they can't walk through that door? And that is so true because years ago, you know, people with disabilities could not go into a building, you know, no accessibility, can't get on a bus, can't get a home on their own.

You know, didn't have closed captioning. Now, you know, we have all of these things. But going into a building, being able to get into a building and apply for the job is the same thing as getting into a building but now it's online. Online application.

>> JENNY HOMME: Yeah. That's kind of the big push there is, you know, with being the digital space now, our world is online. So that's really the push with digital accessibility. It's everything that we try to make in the physical world accessible, it also has to be digital, because our worlds are digital now.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, they are. Well, Gerald, Careers2B, how do you feel that that program develops competencies for Careers2B participants?

>> GERALD HOMME: Well, we do it in a couple different phases. So the first phase of our competency development in the Careers2B program is utilizing our workplace mentoring program that we do here at Bender. And during the entire time somebody is on contract at the Careers2B company that's hosting that employee, we provide mentoring to that person where we touch base with them on a regular basis to talk about what they're doing at work, to talk about what they're learning, what skills they're developing, to provide insight and advice on what's happening from a corporate standpoint, and really put them under our wing and really provide comprehensive mentorship so that person has somebody to help them develop and grow in their first corporate experience, and something with experience to learn from them.

And in addition to that, one of our team members here also maintains contact with that person's supervisor on-site at the company, whoever is working with that person managing them, to make sure that everything is going well from their end, to make sure that they have everything set up, that it's going well, the accommodations are working, if they have a question about how to provide the best, most comprehensive accommodations for an employee that they do that, to make sure if there's something that -- you know, they just want to bounce off us to help this employee develop, we can work together as a team to bring that employee into a great development.

And we also have a tool that we use to help develop through this process called, you know, a competency profile that we use to assess different competencies of that job, how that candidate is growing in those skills as they're continuing through that experience. And then another part of the Careers2B program, the second phase is the career capture phase where at the end of that program, this person is using these skills to secure a permanent position, whether that be within the organization they're on contract with or another.

So we help that person develop their resume and build out a great detailed description of what they've done at their current role in a way that employers will see that content on their resume and want to take action to interview them. We help them in identifying organizations that they should be applying to for positions and what types of jobs they should be applying to in the open market, marketing them for career opportunities to help them secure a full-time position at the end to make sure that there is that continued growth at the end of the Careers2B program to move into a long-term year opportunity.

Because that's the beauty of this program, is this is a way for the private sector to, you know, inject people with disabilities into the workforce. We're always talking about in STEM, where are we going to find people to hire? There are people with disabilities and they're not being considered. And this is a way for someone to gain great experience and to be injected into that STEM workforce to develop that labor pool by giving them the opportunity to start their career.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. And I mean, what we do here at Bender -- remember, folks, we're a for-profit company. You know why? No pity. People with disabilities don't need pity. They need paychecks. So we come out of the private sector, but we not only want to find employment for people with disabilities, we want them to have a successful career. But right now, oh, it's time for our news break, advocacy matters with Peri Jude Radecic from the Pennsylvania Disability Rights. Peri, how are you today?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: I'm fine. We've got a lot of snow here in Harrisburg, but we're doing fine. And good afternoon. Appreciate the opportunity.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, I want some of that snow. I'm the only one here in Pittsburgh that wants it, but I want some of that snow. But go ahead.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Joyce, today on Advocacy Matters, now that Congress is back, there are several issues, Congress is back in full force. And today the United States House of Representatives, the committee on the judiciary held a hearing on HR1. HR1, the title is called For the People Act of 2019. So what does this have to do with people with disabilities? A lot. The act is split into three sections. It's a very big, complex package with 33 titles. It's a very large piece of legislation. So it deals with campaign finance reform, election security, lobbying, ethics, and voting.

And we know how important voting is to us as people with disabilities. So today, again, the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives held its first hearing on HR1. So as this bill moves through the U.S. House of Representatives, disability advocates should be paying close attention to the civil rights sections of the legislation under this voting section of the bill. So what's in this voting section of this very large piece of legislation? So I'll talk about just a few of them. One, it requires states to institute online internet voter registration and allow an individual to update their voter registration online.

So, Joyce, here in Pennsylvania, we have online voter registration, and I can update my voter registration online if I move. And it's very convenient. And it is accessible. But not every state has online internet voter registration. So this bill would require states to institute online voter registration. One of the other things it would do is it would require states to establish and operate a system of automatic voter registration to allow qualified voters, qualified individuals, to vote in federal elections. That means you automatically are registered to vote in federal elections and if you don't, you have to opt out of being a registered voter.

That's brand new. You're automatically eligible to vote in federal elections. You have to opt out if you do not want to vote in federal elections. Something else, it permits an individual who's registered to vote for federal elections to show up on election day at a polling place that they thought was their polling place and update their address if maybe they forgot to update their address, correct their information, and cast a ballot. Now, it used to be that was called a provisional ballot, but not anymore. That's treated as a regular ballot just like everybody else and then their county election official has to update that record.

It also permits any individual to register to vote on election day. So if for some reason you weren't able to register to vote, you are able to register to vote on a federal election day. Now, it also creates a pilot program to enable individuals with disabilities to register and vote privately and independently at their home. So it's a pilot program, but it's going to create a pilot program to test out assistive technology to allow individuals with disabilities to register and vote privately and independently at home.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. This would be awesome. What do our listeners need to do here, Peri?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Just hang on. There's nothing to do right now. It's just a piece of legislation. All it had was a hearing today. As it makes its way through Congress, bills get amended. So right now we're just asking your listeners to pay attention. This is just the beginning of a path forward to look for solutions. But what's important is that today it began a conversation about the identification and proposed solutions to voting barriers for persons with disabilities.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. And of course you will keep us up to date on when we do need to do something.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Absolutely.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Well, Peri, thank you so much. How about giving everyone your website?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Yes, thank you, Joyce. It's www.disabilityrightspa.org. That's disabilityrightspa.org and advocacy matters.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Advocacy does matter. Thanks, Peri. We'll look forward to talking to you next week.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Thanks, Joyce. Take care.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You know, I'm so glad we started this. Actually, the first person that ever thought of this was Mary Brougher, my chief operating officer, saying wouldn't it be great if every week you could have some group call in and give an update. And I did talk to different people. But, you know, I'm on the board of the Disability Rights of Pennsylvania. And right away they were so interested. And now the Executive Director, Peri, has been doing this every week. And we do this, folks, to keep you up to date like in news, like a CNN headline, what's going on in the United States that impacts people with disabilities.

And I really think this is so important. What do you think about it, Jenny?

>> JENNY HOMME: Oh, I love it. I think that's going to be such a huge help. Voting is so important. So anything that can assist in that process, make sure that people can go out and vote, all for it.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, me, too. I am all for it, too. Okay. So, Leanne, as an account manager at Bender, and you work with a new corporation, what impact does it have on the company when they hire a person with a disability?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: So let me first, you know, give a little bit of information about working with a company. So, I work with a lot of new companies as well as new hiring managers within a company that we're already working with. And to be honest, they're very nervous. And part of that is, as you talk about, Joyce, not having the education. So a lot of times when they talk to me they'll say hey, Leanne, I've never worked with someone or had someone work for me that has a disability. Or, you know, what do I do in this or that situation?

So a lot of times the first conversation is talking to them and answering their questions, and helping them understand that we are a resource with all the years of experience that we have. Anything that comes up, reach out to us. We will work with them through anything that comes up. And there's been lots of different questions that have come our way. But we are a resource to help them through this process. Also, as you said, Joyce, people want paychecks, not pity. So because of Gerald's team, the recruitment team, and the great effort they do in finding the right candidates for positions; that helps the company understand we understand the company.

We're understanding not only the skills that they're looking for, but also the culture that the person will be going into so that we provide them great candidates as they go through their process. Because they're going to go through the process of interviewing the person, looking at their resume, just like they would any candidate that's sent to them. So that they feel that comfort level of doing that. Then what we've found, when they bring somebody on board, as Gerald mentioned, we do keep in touch with the hiring manager. How are things going, do you have any questions. They can reach out to us any time, as well as the employee.

That gives another level of comfort of working together. So we've found after the person has been brought on board I get great feedback. This person is great. They have great energy. They're doing extremely well with the group, learning the information for the position. And what happens is, success breeds success. So when this person does well, then that manager talks to another manager. Well, I can tell you honestly having worked in HR for nine years before I came to work for Bender, managers do not want to be left out of success.

When they hear that from another manager, what will happen is they will call me and say Leanne, I also have a position that I'd like you to send candidates for. The original manager that we worked with, they also keep coming back. So we have those managers coming back all the time saying here's another position, here's another position. And then they share that with other people. So what happens is it's a larger group. We get more people hired. They come back to us. And success, as I said, breeds success. Because remember, this is a business proposition in order to meet business needs.

This is not, you know, you just take somebody that has a disability. This is a person that's there performing the job. And because of that, that helps get rid of the stigma that's out there. And I can tell you the companies that we work with that have brought our people on board just love it and continue to work with us through the years, as you can see with different ones that have been on board for lots of years, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Right, like Highmark, 1995. I mean, CSC, not long after that. Computer Sciences Corporation, where I met Leanne, is now DXC Technology. But Leanne was talking about someone works with us at a company, goes elsewhere and still works with us, Leanne has a great network. And I know one of those companies, LMI, hired someone in the CEO, Dave, who knows Leanne well, used to be at CSC, right, Leanne?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: Yeah. As you mentioned, what happens is when we have leaders that move to other companies they reach out to us. It was a great program when I was at CSC, I'm now with this company. They reach out to us because they want to continue that. That's a lot of how we've grown and the word gets out there. So when people leave, they share this with others.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, right. And Jenny, one comment I wanted to make, I think that you can say from working at Highmark that it's not about pity, that everyone has a job. We've placed many people there with disabilities that now work for Highmark. But treated equally with the same expectations as people without disabilities. Wouldn't you say that?

>> JENNY HOMME: Oh, I would say definitely true. It's not about disability. It's about, truly, what you're able to do work-wise. You know, if you're able to complete the tasks, you're getting the tasks. (Chuckling)

>> JOYCE BENDER: That's right. That's why Tony Coelho has this quote I frequently use, which is give us the right to be fired. And that's true. It is true. You know, we want a chance. People with disabilities -- you know, I'm living with epilepsy. But there are millions of people out there, people with disabilities that would give anything to be employed. So, Gerald, talking about that, a person that is listening to this show with a disability saying wow, this is amazing. How do they get involved? What do they do?

>> GERALD HOMME: All you have to do is go to our website, which is benderconsult.com. Go to the career section and submit a resume. And you can even indicate on there in the summary that you are interested in the Careers2B program. So if you're sitting there thinking, I really need to gain some work experience, this sounds like it's a good fit for me, go ahead and apply. And we get positions in the program in a variety of different types of jobs, not just all IT. So if you're outside of IT or maybe you only have an associate's degree, not a four-year degree, there are still positions in this program that can be a great fit for you.

So go ahead and go to our website, apply, and submit a resume to us.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And you will go through an interviewing process. Once again, I was in executive search in my early career before I founded Bender Consulting Services in 1995. And it's the same process. You know, we don't just place people with disabilities. We find people with disabilities that fit the search requirements at a company. And you go through an interviewing process and a reference check just like anyone else. Why I'm saying this, if you are a person with a disability listening to this show and you've been accustomed to people -- oh, how can I say this, feeling sorry for you or treating this as a charity, that's not it.

You will be treated with dignity and respect, because that's how we treat everyone at Bender Consulting Services. Leanne, how about a company? What if a business is listening to this show right now, what should they do?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: Well, they can go to our website, as Gerald mentioned, benderconsult.com. But you're also welcome to reach out to me and I will give you my email address. And you can drop me an email and I will be happy to set up a call, go over services, any questions that you might have. My email is lthomas@benderconsult.com. You're also welcome to call our office and they will also get you in touch with me. And our office's number is 412-787-8567. So there's many ways you can reach out to us. We would love to have the opportunity to talk to you.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And if you do contact us through the website, you know, Leanne will get right back to you. So we welcome everyone. Our motto here is competitive jobs mean freedom, as Jenny said. Because without employment, you will never, ever, ever be free in this country. I wanted to mention also that we have this great product iDisability, which is a software product on the learning management system, 35 modules. Each module is 15 minutes. And this product teaches companies and employees how to work with and communicate to people with disabilities.

And we're so excited. This product is really taking off. And you can contact Leanne about that, also. And when Jenny was talking about digital accessibility, we also work in that area. Our group is called High Tech so if you're a company listening to the show today and you really, really need help, same thing. Go to our website and Leanne will get right back to you. So, Jenny, are there any parting words of encouragement that you would like to give to, let's say young people with disabilities listening to this show that seem to encounter one barrier after the other?

>> JENNY HOMME: Yeah, I would say, you know, one thing is read one of the most recent blogs on the Bender website. It's all about self-advocacy is and I think that the message is so important. And the thing I would leave with is become your own self-advocate. Become the person who roots yourself on the most. You're going to hit barriers. It's going to happen. But you can break past them. You know, for me, having a mental health-related disability, you know, I was constantly told, you know, it doesn't count, it's not important, get over it.

But here I am. Am I over my disability? No, because it is a disability. But I can break past pretty much any barrier someone's going to put in front of me because, you know, I know am my own self-advocate.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And Jenny, you know how you were saying you have a mental health disability and people -- they don't understand it. And they'll say come on, what's your problem. You know, they don't understand it. I read a great quote the other day. And this is it. Would you go up to someone with cancer and say hey, just get over it? Same thing, folks. A mental health issue a disability. And it is physical. It is physical. So, you know, don't go to someone with a mental health disability and say hey, just get over it.

Like me, I have epilepsy. Hey, just get over it. Quit making that mistake.

>> JENNY HOMME: Yes. My point is, you know, I want to go up to my dad and say hey, won't you just see already?

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, right. Yes. That's right, Jenny. How about you, Gerald? Do you have any last words to people listening to the show that have tried to work for years? I know you've met many people, candidates that had not worked for years that then we found employment, turned their life around. Do you have any last words for them?

>> GERALD HOMME: Yeah, and actually, I wanted to share a success story of someone who went through that very same situation. And we had a candidate who was searching for work for years. His name is Joseph Taven. And we were able to place him, after many years of searching for work, at Highmark in a Careers2B role. And he was able to use that to start his career. He has a stutter and could not get past the interview because people wouldn't take him seriously during the interview. Finally got him into a great opportunity and he has been working at HM Health Solutions for years now and was just featured in an op ed written by Ted Kennedy, Jr. in the New York Times about how hiring people with disabilities is more profitable for your company.

So, you know, just when you think, you know, things are not going in the direction you want, there is always hope. Keep fighting that fight. There is great opportunity out there for you. Keep pushing yourself every day and you'll get there.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Leanne, let me ask you one last question. What difference have you seen in the amount of hiring after a company hires one person, a business?

>> LEANNE THOMAS: My experience is that one gets to two, to three. It just doubles. It just keeps going that people are just so excited about the quality of people that are brought on board that it just grows so much. So I'd like to say to companies, don't lose out on these great candidates. Why would you let other companies have these great candidates and you sit back and watch that happen?

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is such great advice. You're right. Remember, folks, remember this. I hear companies say all the time, where are we going to find talent? Where will we find it? Right here. You may feel free to call us. As Leanne knows, we found employment for a young man here in Pittsburgh, a chemical engineer. He had just graduated from Pitt. He should have been recruited months before that but he has a disability. He works here in Pittsburgh and he is phenomenal. So you know what I say? You missed out on that. You missed out on this person with STEM skills because you did not move forward.

Well, Jenny, Gerald, Leanne, thank you so much for being on the show today and talking about Careers2B. And I hope you all enjoyed the show. And please tell others to listen to this show, which is on demand. Please make sure you share it with others. Gerald, thank you.

>> GERALD HOMME: Thank you.


>> JENNY HOMME: Thank you, Joyce.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And Leanne.

>> LEANNE THOMAS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, I had to personally thank each one because they are all so awesome. So, folks, stay in touch. Next week on this show, Regina Hayward, Senior Vice President from Wells Fargo. Oh, what a rock star she is. And she's on the board of Disability IN. She is phenomenal! Make sure you tell everyone about this show ahead of time. She is phenomenal. This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where Disability Matters at voiceamerica.com. Talk to you next week.




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