People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have more opportunities to work in fulfilling and competitive jobs thanks to The Arc@Work, an innovative workforce program. The Arc@Work is leading the way in developing creative workforce solutions for the government and private sector by connecting employers with talented employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting the recruitment, on-boarding, and retention process.

The Arc of the Midlands offers The Arc@Work with sponsorship by SC Developmental Disabilities Council. Recently, The Arc of the Midlands received a grant from the Wal Mart Foundation to further develop innovative and competitive employment programs in the community. The Arc of the Midlands is one of 15 organizations to take on the challenge and provide more employment opportunities for people with I/DD.

Through The Arc’s employment program, The Arc@Work, is pleased to announce it has received a $245,000, one-year grant from the Walmart Foundation.  This funding will be dedicated toward developing innovative programs that place people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in competitive, integrated employment within their communities.

Current research indicates that 85% of people with I/DD are unemployed.  The Arc is working with the public and private sectors to change this reality and offer an opportunity for people with I/DD to obtain meaningful career opportunities alongside people without disabilities on an unprecedented scale. New developments include a government directive to hire 100,000 employees with disabilities as well as updated regulations for federal contractors.  As a result, the federal government and more than 45,000 contractors that include many Fortune 500 companies are now seeking employees with disabilities like never before. Unfortunately, this current demand cannot be matched by existing workforce systems that support the I/DD community.  And without a strong, unified pipeline in place, this population will not benefit from these new guidelines as much as other disability groups.

“For far too long, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been relegated to the margins of the working world. Along with private initiatives, new government regulations promise to dramatically increase the number of people with disabilities placed alongside of people without disabilities in integrated, competitive environments.  The support from the Walmart Foundation will allow The Arc to build a system that will transform the existing pool of talented candidates with disabilities into productive employees,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc@Work is well-positioned to tackle this challenge, as it has the expertise and resources to harness the current social, political, and philanthropic energy behind workforce development efforts for people with I/DD. For this particular project, The Arc@Work will utilize existing infrastructure, as well as tap sixteen chapters of The Arc to create an increased number of corporate hiring opportunities.  Ultimately this model will connect well-qualified job seekers with I/DD to local, regional, and national employers. The chapters that will be involved include UCP Seguin (IL); The Arc of the Midlands (SC); The Arc of Spokane; The Arc of Anchorage (AK); The Arc of Montgomery County (MD); The Arc of El Paso (TX); The Arc of Monroe County (NY); St. Louis Arc (MO); The Arc of Chester County (PA); Berkshire County Arc (MA); Star, Inc. (CT); The Arc of North Carolina (NC); The Arc Davidson County and Greater Nashville (TN); VersAbility (VA); The Arc of Bristol County (MA); and ADEC (IN), each of which will receive an average sub-grant award of $10,000.  

Many of these chapters currently offer high-quality employment services for people with I/DD, such as job development, job coaching, as well as skill-building opportunities like preparation for interviews and resume development.  Under their guidance, people with I/DD will receive support to secure competitive employment in their communities. Additionally, over the project period, the chapters of The Arc will strengthen their capacity to place people with I/DD into integrated, community-based employment by developing or deepening partnerships with local, regional, and national employers during the project period.  Local, regional, or national employers will be able to improve their ability to successfully employ people with I/DD as a result of their partnership with The Arc.

“This grant is an example of the Walmart Foundation’s commitment to modeling one of our core values – Respect for the Individual, “said Carol May, Program Manager of the Walmart Foundation.  “We desire to see communities empower all individuals to reach their full potential.”  

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.