Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raritan Borough business offers 'Bridges to Employment' for the deaf

Source Link - Raritan Borough business offers 'Bridges to Employment' for the deaf

A local business is helping the deaf and hard of hearing reach their career goals while also serving employers' needs.

The Bridges to Employment Career Development Center, at 600 First Ave., provides people who are deaf and hard of hearing with a range of vocational assessment, employment training, placement, job coaching and support services.

It is one of three such centers in New Jersey funded by the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and it serves people in Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

It's a place where Jeremy Salva, 22, of Perth Amboy can discover what he wants to do, and try to get some experience along the way to a career. Salva, who was born deaf, is a computer whiz and loves to figure out how to fix them.

While he was working on his resume and cover letter, the center sent him out in the field to do what's called a job sample, or tryout, at T.J. Maxx. He worked in stock, and liked having responsibility for something and felt very motivated. He liked working with other people.

His career facilitator, Hailey Lormel, is now reaching out to companies, trying to find a good match for him.

Lormel is also working with clients facing the realities of the economy. Tina Tolentino, 33, of Fords was laid off from her office job in 2008 when her company made cutbacks. Tolentino, who is deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate, is eager to return to the work force and is working with Lormel to get there.

"My ideal job would be to work for a fashion marketing office or magazine company where I am able to use my organizational skills to assist my team," Tolentino said.

The focus is on the ability — not disability — of the clients, said Alyse Betso, manager of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. Betso said the center has tips and services for employers who want to better communicate with their deaf and hard of hearing employees. There are basic etiquette rules such as don't cover your mouth when speaking. It's also important to maintain eye contact, she said.

The center offers forms of technology such as video phones, door bells and fire alarms with bright flashing lights, as well as other products, to bridge the gap. Communication with the deaf or hard of hearing doesn't have to require technology; someone who wants to get their message across can just write something down.

"Our goal is to provide people with the resources and tools necessary to find and maintain successful employment," said Glori Bine-Callagy, director of Bridges to Employment.

That means helping hundreds of people overcome barriers to employment, while helping companies satisfy their needs, she said. The Career Development Center offers support groups, seminars and workshops related to employment. Bridges to Employment is available to provide short- and long-term job coaching and additional employment support for people with a wide range of special needs. The Career Development Center also houses one of the five Demonstration Centers in the state for the Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Approximately 800,000 people in New Jersey have varying forms of hearing loss, said Fred Feiner, a spokesman for The Bridges to Employment Career Development Center.

The Career Development Center is administered by Bridges to Employment, a division of Alternatives that provides comprehensive career services, he said.



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