Discovering unique employment in Monmouth County through Family Resource Associates

FRA’s Jimmy K. on the job at Jumping Brook Country Club.
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FRA’s Jimmy K. on the job at Jumping Brook Country Club.

Family Resource Associates (FRA) is doing its part to help educate the community about the EmployAbility of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

FRA, located in Red Bank, uses a Customized Employment Options (CEO) program that focuses on meaningful and inclusive work in a fully integrated community setting. Phillip Duck is FRA’s director of EmployAbility, which encompasses the Monmouth Medical Center Project SEARCH program, as well as FRA’s employment supports and internship program for high school transition students.

“Our CEO program is particularly successful for people with unique employment challenges including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Duck said in a prepared statement. “Employment opportunities range from everything between golf clubs to schools.”

A community can be found in an office, factory or online. Customized, or niche jobs, including self-employment options are all considered.

“Participants benefit from learning more about themselves in the ‘Discovery Process’ in order to better define their strengths, interests and passions for the type of work they seek,” Duck said in the statement. “A creative Employment Team and a Business Advisory Council (BAC) work together to locate unique work opportunities focusing on local venues that minimize transportation difficulties. Success in long-term employment improves with fewer obstacles. Success is defined when both the employee and employer are satisfied.”

FRA has existed for 40 years, but FRA’s vision for EmployAbility dates back to 2015.

“From the beginning, we developed a strategic plan for the program,” Duck said in the statement. “Unfortunately, funding is always an issue with support services, so our vision was largely a ‘paper’ vision.”

The Impact 100 Jersey Coast grant allowed FRA to take that vision from paper to reality.

“We were able to hire staff and implement many of the elements of our strategic plan,” Duck said in the statement.

The future of FRA’s EmployAbility program depends on the community.

“The work we do is challenging and rigorous, and we need additional supports from the larger community in order to be successful,” Duck said in the statement. “With the assistance of Carol Stillwell, president and CEO of Stillwell-Hansen, we have initiated a BAC that will be comprised of 10-12 local businesses. The BAC will be a great resource of connections, employment opportunities, professional advisors, etc.”

FRA has also received assistance from Tom Monaco, program director with IEEE Entrepreneurship in order to start a monthly Job Club program. IEEE Entrepreneurship’s mission is to foster engineering and technological innovation.

“This club will provide those we support with an opportunity to present their shared experiences, brainstorm ways to solve challenges and build personal networks,” Duck said in the statement. “Looking to the future, we will continue to work daily to provide opportunities to people with disabilities so that they can work in jobs that are meaningful.”

According to the Department of Labor, 80% of people with disabilities are not part of the workforce.

“This is a startling statistic that always gives me a pause,” Duck said in the statement. “There are a number of reasons for this bleak reality, including issues with transportation, community and business awareness, and prejudice. Our goal is to tackle all of the issues that have traditionally been a barrier to employment for people with disabilities. In doing so, we hope to see the labor statistics shift in the other direction.”

Community members interested in helping FRA meet the needs of its EmployAbility Program can first become aware of the inequities that exist for people with disabilities in the labor force, according to the statement.

“Do you own a small business? Do you work for a large organization with a purpose around diversity and inclusion? Do you have contacts that might be amenable to learning about our programs and the fantastic people we support? Finding employment is mostly about mining our networks,” Duck said in the statement. “The public can assist us best by availing themselves to be a part of our growing network.”

To learn more about supporting FRA’s Employability programs, email Duck at pduck@frainc.org. To learn about FRA’s upcoming Pre-Vocational, Wellness and Technology virtual classes, visit frainc.org or email frontdesk@frainc.org.