Teach people to fish and they’ll feed themselves for life. That’s the aim of the Miami-Dade EmployAbility Network.
Since 2007 the volunteer network composed of human resource executives and labor lawyers has reimbursed companies that hire people with physical and developmental disabilities as interns.
“The idea is to push beyond the reluctance that some companies have because they can’t afford to hire,” said founding president Bob Bromberg. “We provide the money so companies can do this.”
They put their money behind their efforts. The network reimburses business partners 100 percent of an intern’s earnings, with a maximum of 240 hours.
Mr. Bromberg estimates the organization has worked with 30 employers and 60 interns. Some of those interns have even been permanently hired at their workplace.
Not only do interns gain work experience, they also learn vital skills such as how to work in groups and under pressure — experiences that are otherwise hard to come by.
“We know how hard it is to find jobs these days,” said Iliana Castillo-Frick, the organization’s current president. “Having some work experience on your résumé can certainly help.”
By going through the regular hiring process, they also familiarize themselves with interviewing and testing. This experience gives interns confidence when entering the workforce for the first time.
The internship program encourages people with physical and developmental disabilities to seek out work despite their condition and helps create an environment where they feel comfortable.
Through the program, interns can work with a wide array of industries across the region, from banking and health to law firms.
Employers, meanwhile, receive help from a job coach about how to accommodate workers with disabilities.
Intern Duane Chin Loy, a 29-year old Cutler Bay native with cerebral palsy, works at Baptist Hospital’s supply chain department. He is confident that his work experience, combined with a vocational degree in medical billing from Miami-Dade College, will improve his job prospects.
“I love working here,” he said. “It’s the best place, like one big family.”
The Miami-Dade EmployAbility Network’s efforts make it an exemplary civic citizen — providing workplace opportunities for disabled people and offering resources for companies to hire more valuable individuals.