New Horizons’ Employment Readiness Program Opens a New Window for Adults with Disabilities

While the number of unemployed persons continues to decrease nationwide, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability is more than twice the rate of those with no disability. However, according to New Horizons, a San Fernando Valley California based nonprofit, it has been proven that adults with disabilities have a significantly better chance of employment when they receive job skills training.

Since August of 2018, New Horizons, located in North Hills, California, has been offering its Employment Readiness program, creating better opportunities for adults with disabilities through job skills training. This program builds curiosity and empowers individuals for the work force.

Participants gather weekly at either the Microsoft Store at Westfield Topanga in Canoga, California or on the campus of New Horizons, to learn valuable skills including best practices in searching for jobs online, filling out an application, and also training on Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel. During class sessions students even create resumes and cover letters and practice interview skills.

“The Microsoft Store has really helped us,” says John C. Brauer, President and CEO of New Horizons. “At a grassroots community level together we are affecting real change. It’s been amazing to see our clients learn new, practical, and useful skills that they can use to find a job, to connect socially with their friends, and to join the big, inclusive world!”

Employment Readiness runs for 12 weeks and provides ample time to learn, ask questions, review, practice, and work in a small group setting with leaders, mentors, and teachers.  Microsoft Store has developed the structural components necessary to build these values in a robust collaborative community with New Horizons. Everyone’s goal is to see these participants gain skills and access to better paying jobs and workforce opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, across all age groups, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than those with no disability.  A large proportion of persons with a disability–about 8 in 10–were not in the labor force in 2018, compared with about 3 in 10 of those with no disability.

Employment population ratios in 2018 show 19.1% of adults with disabilities are working compared to 65.9% of adults without a disability. Workers with a disability were more likely to be employed part time than those with no disability. In 2018, 31 percent of workers with a disability usually worked part time, compared with 17 percent of those without a disability.

Low levels of employment for one population segment negatively impacts the U.S. economy, ultimately affecting everyone. People with disabilities were three times as likely to live in poverty (CPS). Almost two-thirds of working-age adults who experience long-term income poverty have a disability. Further, measures of income poverty likely underestimate the financial situation facing people with disabilities, who may need more income to make ends meet.

Feedback from the Employment Readiness participants has been consistently positive, “I loved the Microsoft Store windows class and I want to learn more,” said Irene Morales.

Danielle DeJean, echoes these sentiments, “I really enjoyed the Microsoft Store class. It was beneficial to me and the teacher from the company understood my questions and gave me answers to help me complete the course.  It helped me gain experience for my job search which is currently underway.”

The connection between poverty and disability is complex and multi-directional and it is important to examine not only the number of jobs available to adults with disabilities, but the type and quality of jobs opportunities outside of low or unskilled positions. To capture these possibilities requires considering freshly conceived future work situations. New Horizons, with the help of Microsoft Store, is transferring job skills training and tools for the next level within technology and online literacy, creating innovative opportunities for all.