For more than three decades, the nonprofit organization Best Buddies has been working to end the social, physical, and economic isolation of people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) all around the world. Through its three program pillars, Best Buddies works to empower people with IDD by helping connect them with one-to-one friendships, leadership development opportunities, and integrated employment.
In a recent blog post, Best Buddies’ founder, Chairman, and CEO Anthony K. Shriver reveals that engaging people with IDD in meaningful work is an issue that is particularly close to his heart. No matter what our ability level may be, meaningful work gives us all an important sense of purpose and human connection—not to mention the ability to independently support ourselves and contribute to our community and society—but in today’s workforce, an astounding 81% of adults with IDD lack any sort of paid job. Best Buddies is working to change this figure through Best Buddies Jobs, a program currently operating in more than 20 US and international locations that matches skilled and qualified individuals with IDD with businesses in need of dedicated and enthusiastic employees.
If you’re an employer or business owner seeking new talent, read on to learn more about Best Buddies Jobs and the benefits that the program and its participants can bring to your organization.
What’s the principle behind Best Buddies Jobs?
Best Buddies Jobs is based on the principle of integrated employment, which is one of the three key mission pillars of the overall Best Buddies organization. To determine if a job is integrated (according to the Office of Disability Employment Policy), there are four key components to look for: the opportunity for continuous interaction between employees with a disability and workers without disabilities; a pay scale of at least minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage; employment supervision by employees of the business (as opposed to providers or job coaches whose primary responsibility is to support employees with disabilities); and a work environment that reflects the average population (note that in the average population, approximately 20% of people have a disability, and about 3% of people are living with IDD).
Who participates in Best Buddies Jobs?
Best Buddies Jobs participants are individuals living with IDD who are not part of the school system (or are about to exit the school system). Typical participants are interested in identifying and maintaining jobs in their local community, and are looking for some extra support in doing so. At present, there are more than 400 Best Buddies Jobs participants working in the US in a variety of roles, from receptionist to stagehand.
How does Best Buddies Jobs match businesses and employees?
One of the unique aspects of Best Buddies Jobs is that it takes into account the needs of both employees and employers when matching candidates and businesses. For candidates, Best Buddies Jobs helps identify local employers that are a good fit for a candidate’s interests and that have something more to offer than just an hourly wage. For employers, the staff of Best Buddies Jobs work hard to source and prescreen candidates from a substantial talent pool, with the ultimate goal of identifying prospective employees who are an excellent fit for the business’ needs and culture. If Best Buddies Jobs staff can’t immediately identify a candidate, they will conduct further sourcing efforts to find the right candidate for the specific position within the required timeline.
What kind of support does Best Buddies Jobs provide?
After a Best Buddies Jobs participant obtains employment with a local company, both employee and employer continue to receive support and guidance from a dedicated Best Buddies Employment Consultant. The support that the consultant provides can include conducting employee awareness orientation training with existing company staff to help everyone understand how to work effectively with colleagues with IDD; initial on-the-job training for the employee; regular monthly check-ins with employers and employees; additional retraining if needed; and the creation of workplace support networks geared towards the individuals that the Best Buddies Jobs participant will interact with the most.
Why should businesses hire a Best Buddies Jobs participant?
Participating in meaningful work has many proven benefits for people living with IDD, but businesses can benefit just as much from including these individuals in their workforce. On a practical level, working with Best Buddies Jobs candidates gives companies a cost-effective solution for their business needs, helps keep recruitment and training costs down for high-turnover positions, and offers the possibility of federal tax incentives. But building an integrated workforce offers many more advantages: companies working with Best Buddies Jobs participants routinely report greater customer satisfaction results, lower rates of absenteeism and sick leave, improved employee morale thanks to the promotion of a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and an enhanced culture of corporate responsibility.