Hamilton County launches Disability Employment Program
Officials in Hamilton County have launched a program designed to train individuals with disabilities and connect them with jobs in the hospitality industry. The 10-week Disability Employment Program began in December with participants training at the Hampton Inn Fishers in positions where hospitality employers have seen a large demand coming out of the pandemic.
“A lot of part-time roles, a lot of housekeeping roles, a lot of various professions that fell into food service occupations were those that had high degrees of unmet demand and also potentially would be a really good fit for our disability services providers to help fill,” said Invest Hamilton County CEO Mike Thibideau.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Thibideau the open positions are a great fit for individuals with disabilities looking for work.
“A lot of those individuals are looking for part time roles,” he said. “They are looking for opportunity, but they want to have integrated employment. They want to be part of our ecosystem and our regular business workforce. This opportunity aligned in kind of both directions and seemed like a really solid fit.”
The program stems from a partnership involving Invest Hamilton County, Hamilton County Tourism and Noblesville-based nonprofit Janus Developmental Services.
Participants work with an employment training coach from Janus at the Fishers hotel and receive training on a variety of operations, such as pre-cleaning hotel rooms to deep cleaning other areas of the hotel, among other jobs.
“They have different experiences of this kind to kind of expose them to what different jobs could look like within the space but also help them to learn what they love and make sure that this is a really good fit for them,” said Thibideau.
During the first cohort, Thibideau said the participants received positive feedback from not only hotel employees and management, but travelers as well.
“There were guests coming up to hotel management, to the participants themselves, and letting them know how good everything looked, how happy they were to be staying at a hotel that was participating in this program, and really just what a nice thing it was to see this occurring and that they could tell that the work being done was really good work.”
The participants graduated from the program last week, and Thibideau said four of the seven participants are slated to be hired by the hotel for permanent part-time positions.
“This program is a win-win for these individuals who could thrive in a lodging community atmosphere, as well as the hotel managers in need of talent to provide the best in hospitality service,” said Hamilton County Tourism CEO Brenda Myers said in written remarks. “We appreciate our partners for their innovative thinking.”
Thibideau said the partners are already looking at expanding the program throughout the county by partnering with local high schools and their disability programs. Additional hotel properties have also contacted the partners with interest in participating.
But Thibideau said the program has legs beyond just Hamilton County.
“We know the same types of jobs here that we’re training people for, those opportunities exist elsewhere,” he said. “And so there’s a natural scalability of this program as well, because it doesn’t rely on a centralized training campus of any kind. There’s no extensive capital investment that has to occur in order for it to function properly. And as long as we can determine really good viability, we think this is something that almost every property in the state that wants to can be participating in.”
The program is being funded with American Rescue Plan Act dollars approved by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and Hamilton County Council.