MRCI programs put people to workRosemount facility helps find work for people with developmental disabilities
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
Putting people to work doesn’t just impact the person who finds a job. It impacts us all. For people with disabilities, a paycheck means some freedom and a sense of purpose. For the community at large, it means members of the community who are contributing to the local economy.
At MRCI, putting people with disabilities to work is the main focus, and over the last year, the Rosemount facility has expanded its offerings to try and help more people.
Vice president of metro programs Bill Schwartz said the changes will help MRCI better serve its clients and the community as a whole.
The unemployment rate among people with disabilities is high, and even those who have employment are generally under-employed, said Schwartz. According to the United States Department of Labor the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 13.7 percent for January 2013.
“We can change that,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz said MRCI is in the business of finding people work, and he believes putting people to work benefits us all. He said while some business owners feel it’s a risk to hire people with disabilities, MRCI works hard to train and prepare its clients to be successful members of the workforce.
“We do it all the time and we work with (clients) to have success,” said Schwartz.
Besides providing meaningful employment, Schwartz said hiring someone with disabilities has greater social and economic implications.
“How we treat people indicates what kind of people we are,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz said people with disabilities who work are less dependent on the government, which benefits us all.
Practically, Schwartz said MRCI and its clients are an economic engine. The company partners with more than 40 area businesses. The Rosemount center processes more than 40,000 items daily. Rosemount employs more than 200 people and generates $4 million in revenue on an annual basis.
This year the center opened a Dakota County Vocational Rehabilitation office in their building. Vocational rehab focuses on community-based work and supported employment. Schwartz said the program serves higher-functioning people with disabilities to work as an individual in a workplace.
“There’s a lot of need and we’ve had a lot of success,” said Schwartz of their first foray into vocational rehab.
The program helps people find and keep a job. Schwartz said the program provides training and workplace accommodations and helps people set a career path. While individual skills can vary widely, Schwartz said the goal is to help them find the right fit and have success.
“We always tailor the job search to the person,” said Schwartz.
This year MRCI Rosemount also started offering the Supported Employment Training Service program, also known as SETS. The curriculum-based program offers supported employment training. SETS aims to teach and improve participants to get them ready for supported employment.
There is a lot of need for work services in Dakota County. Schwartz said the center is working at capacity. By enacting the SETS program, Schwartz said they hope to be able to move more people into supported independent work. By doing so, they would be able to take on more clients.
While some people will never be able to go on to that sort of employment, Schwartz said they feel that with additional training some could.
Going forward, center staff will try to engage more businesses to hire on clients. Program manager Thea Kramer said MRCI clients are well trained workers who can bring diversity into the workplace. Currently clients work in a variety of areas including production, cleaning, clerical and food service.
“The more diversity in the workplace the better off we are,” added Kramer.
Center based work
“We are really proud of our center-based work,” said Schwartz.
Center-based work offers a variety of jobs to even individuals who are low functioning. The Rosemount Center includes a production facility in which the company provides a number of in-house and contract products. Some of the products the center puts out include kit assembly, candy packaging for MRCI’s line called Quality Sweets, and labeling.
MRCI clients receive a piece-rate wage for their work. Schwartz said while that form of payment has been criticized it works well for the center.
“It’s an incredibly valuable way of doing business. We pay people fairly and educate people how to work,” said Schwartz.
Kramer said the center-based work offers a safety net for clients who aren’t ready to work outside the center. She said it also provides a reliable source of employment for clients who want to work.
For more information on MRCI visit www.mrciworksource.org or call 651-423-8900.