Chris Ramey expected to turn a page Monday night.
Ramey is an employment specialist with Development Services Incorporated (DSI) of Decatur County. His primary job is to assist people with disabilities in finding jobs throughout Decatur County.
I ve been with DSI of Decatur County since June, he said. But to date, we haven t gotten a lot of positive feedback from local business in our efforts to find jobs for people with disabilities.
To address that problem and, especially, to help dispel the misunderstandings surrounding the hiring of disabled workers, Ramey hosted a Community Employment Options Open House Monday night at Tree City Estates.
Ramey expressed confidence the event would ve made a big impact in helping educate local business about the benefits of hiring disabled workers and in dispelling the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding such hirings...if anyone had shown up.
The Daily News briefly visited the Open House Monday night and found Ramey and his wife seated in the facility s reception area, trays of snacks untouched and bottles of soda unopened.
The employment specialist had high hopes going into his event.
I worked with Jeff Emsweller and the Greensburg-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce to help advertise this event, he explained. They sent an announcement with their weekly email, which goes out to 400 people. The Chamber posted it on their Facebook page, too.
Ramey also worked with Bryan Robbins, executive director of Mainstreet Greensburg, who also posted an announcement on its Facebook page.
I went all around Decatur County, too, Ramey added, posting fliers that announced our Open House. This wasn t a matter of people not knowing about this event, yet not a single soul showed up besides the newspaper.
Asked why he thought no one attended, Ramey responded, I m not sure, but I don t think businesses understand what we have to offer, and I don t think they re interested in hearing.
Before Monday s Open House, Ramey spoke Monday afternoon at the monthly meeting of the Greensburg Rotary Club to both explain what he does and to advertise his event.
I ve spoken at several events all around Decatur County trying to help businesses understand the advantages of hiring disabled workers, he said. The questions I ve received at those events, though, lead me to suspect that area businesses still have many, many misconceptions about hiring disabled workers.
One of the primary misconceptions, Ramey added, is that hiring disabled workers will cost more money for any special accommodations that might be involved.
What businesses don t understand, he said, is that we re funded through a Federal program called Vocational Rehabilitation. My services are free of charge for both my clients and for the businesses. That program would pay for most, if not all, work-related special accommodations for my clients, too.
He continued, There are so many positives to hiring a person with disabilities. For starters, there are significant tax incentives. Plus, studies show the turnover rates among disabled workers are significantly lower than among the general population. Our workers are motivated, loyal and productive. They tend to be more consistently on time to work. Remember, this is a population that has a hard time finding work anyway especially in this economy. So when they land a job, they really value and appreciate it.
Through Vocational Rehabilitation, Ramey can also arrange for a trial work experience, between the prospective employee and the business.
A trial work experience allows the prospective employee to actually perform the job in which he or she is interested for a set period of time (frequently, according to Ramey, between 6 and 8 hours, depending on the job, the worker and the business in question).
Vocational Rehabilitation pays the wages for the trial work experience, Ramey stressed. So there s no risk or obligation for either party.
The most important thing a trial experience provides is a chance for my clients to prove what they can do, he added. We re dealing with a tough stereotype, but disabled people are often capable of a lot more than what they re given credit for. Most business owners are totally and pleasantly surprised when they realize what my clients can accomplish.
Ramey stressed, too, that his services don t end with the hiring of a disabled employee.
We work with two tiers of clients through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, he said. I follow tier 2 clients for 90 days after the date of hire. I work with tier 1 clients for a year after hire.
Whether tiers 1 or 2, Ramey works closely with both the employee and the business to ensure a productive, efficient working relationship between the two.
I help explain the prospective job to the client. I help with them with resumes and with preparing for a job interview, he said. After they re hired, I help ensure that the employee and the business are happy with each other and help smooth over any rough spots. I also speak with the business in advance, counseling them what to expect from their new employee.
He continued, More than anything else, I want businesses to understand that when I say I ll be there for support and to help them get the most from their new employee, I mean it. I think a lot of businesses have been burned, misled or outright lied to by employment specialists in the past. So many [employment specialists] claim to provide support for new disabled workers, but don t follow through. That s not how I operate; when I pledge to help the client and the business create a successful employment relationship, I mean it, and I always follow through.
For more information on Ramey or DSI s services, call 614-3036 or 663-4690. Or you can email Ramey at email@example.com.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.