Valerie Hill, Clayton Vasterling (graduate), Kevin Corrigan (employment advisor)

Two participants in the Center’s 12-week training program have graduated and are on their way to full employment. The Center’s partnership with Newco Enterprises allowed these individuals to gain industry-specific skills to build upon and add to their résumé as well as learn appropriate workplace communications and interactions. Talent Connect, the Center’s newest program, works with businesses in the manufacturing and distribution industries to train and hire people with disabilities.

Director of Talent Connect, Valerie Hill, takes the lead in working with area businesses offering businesses qualified candidates for direct hire and providing disability awareness training that educates a company’s employees on diverse and integrated workplaces. “Talent Connect is helping businesses save money and improve their turnover rate, since the turnover rate for employees with disabilities is eight percent compared with 45 percent for other workers. Best of all, our candidates are getting jobs that will enable them to make and maintain a livable wage. Talent Connect is taking diversity and inclusion to the next level. We are excited to see our future unfold,” said Valerie.

Newco is one of the first companies to jump at the opportunity to diversify their workforce and use Talent Connect as a resource for finding and hiring good workers. The company manufactures commercial coffee and tea brewing equipment and related accessories. Talent Connect trainees working at Newco assemble coffee machines and other brewing equipment and package replacement parts. Depending on the trainees’ performance and aptitudes, they might try out different roles within the business including packing, shipping and data entry. Newco trainees are paid during the training period, although not all Talent Connect training sites offer payment. At the end of the program, participants receive a certificate of completion and the Talent Connect team works to help them find employment. The next round of trainees will start their program with Newco in December.

In addition to advancing the employment goals of people with disabilities, Talent Connect helps businesses meet federal guidelines. Businesses that have federal contracts are required to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain people with disabilities. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor strengthened these regulations, leaving some contractors unsure of how to bring their employment practices into compliance. Talent Connect is the answer. The program helps companies comply with these new federal regulations and diversify their workforce. The companies that Talent Connect works with feel relieved to be in compliance and doing the right thing. The Center and Talent Connect are excited, because by helping these businesses, the program is also finding and creating opportunities for gainful employment for people with disabilities.

Talent Connect is a collaborative project of the Center for Head Injury Services and UCP Heartland, with initial funding from a private family foundation in New York. You can learn more about the program at their website: