Finding a job in this economy is hard enough, but for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, it can seem nearly impossible. Midwest Special Services, Inc. is working to change that.
According to MSS, E-Trac is the first-of-its-kind online vocational program. It's now available to 650 Minnesotans who have disabilities or who face obstacles to employment.
"I would like working at a restaurant," nodded Kenisha Conditt, acknowledging her strong suits with a smile. "I'm a good greeter."
Conditt is one of the hundreds of new E-Trac users, and MSS believes the new online vocational training program could be the key that opens up the job market to her.
"It's been helpful for me to look for a job," stated Conditt.
Conditt lives with an intellectual disability. Since October, Conditt has been using the program, which is filled with animations, graphics, and uses both memorable audio and visuals to help users gain and retain universal job skills.
"Unemployment rates for adults with disabilities are around double that of their non-disabled counterparts," noted Candace Miller Lopez, director of development at MSS.
In Minnesota, approximately 150,000 working age adults have a disability and would like to work, and 65 percent of these adults are looking for work and cannot land a job. Most give up.
According to MSS, the only things these adults lack are:
1. The ability to find the job.
2. The ability to market themselves in a way to keep it.
"We found a tremendous amount of computer learning software targeted at jobseekers, but nothing for people with developmental disabilities," recounted Miller Lopez.
So MSS representatives decided to develop a downloadable program to change that. It took three years, grant money from the Otto Bremer Foundation and volunteers to build the E-Trac program from scratch.
"We wanted it to be game-like to take the fear factor out of it for people that aren't comfortable with a computer," explained Miller Lopez.
For now, the program is offered free of charge to beneficiaries and providers.
"We believe everyone who uses E-Trac will be able to gain employment," added Miller Lopez.
Miller Lopez also believes this is just the beginning for E-Trac.
"We can go national with it. Because it's web-based; we can go international with it because it's web-based," she assured.
Meanwhile, Conditt is confident the E-Trac courses are putting her on the track to get the job she so dearly wants.
"I'm a people person," Conditt smiled.
Miller Lopez tells FOX 9 her goal is to reach 8,000 Minnesotans with the E-Trac program over the next two years. Miller Lopez also plans to help disabled veterans and those facing language barriers.
Anyone interested in seeing a live demonstration of the E-Trac program can visit the Minnesota Rehabilitation Association's Fall Conference, Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud. From 7a.m. - 6p.m. For additional details, click here: http://www.mnrehab.org/