WEST ORANGE, N.J. – The non-profit Kessler Foundation yesterday awarded a $484,452 Signature Employment Grant to the National Disability Institute in Washington, D.C., to fund a program that will train disabled people to work in credit unions.

The two-year program plans to train and place 72 individuals with disabilities in New York credit unions, with plans to replicate it nationwide.

“Individuals with disabilities are often an untapped resource in the workforce,” said Elaine Katz, vice president of grants for the Kessler Foundation. “When given the opportunity, they have the skills to greatly contribute to an organization.”

The project is titled BEST Employees N.Y., with BEST an acronym for Building Economic Strength Together. It is an enhanced version of the 2009 Kessler Foundation-funded pilot initiative of BEST Employees in N.J., which trained individuals with disabilities to work in credit unions. Upon successful completion of training, disabled individuals will participate in vocational rehabilitation’s Work-Try-Outs and On-the-Job Training to place them in proper internships.

The project includes these elements: a comprehensive assessment tool to judge performance; Credit Union Ready Employee Training and certification so employees understand how to work with individuals with disabilities; a partnership with the Credit Union Association of New York to screen and match applicants with available positions; collaboration with vocational rehabilitation vendors, training and technical assistance to credit unions; and, ongoing training.

BEST Employees N.Y. is a collaborative effort of NDI, Federation of Community Development CUs, CUANY, New York Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation, State Department of Labor’s Disability Employment Initiative and Syracuse University’s Burton Blatt Institute.

This grant is part of more than $2.17 million in grants distributed by Kessler Foundation to improve employment and job training options for Americans with disabilities.


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