Transitioning Young Adults with Disabilities into the Workplace

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Sternberg. Director, Disabilities Services, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston

Twenty-one year old Matt finished high school, lives at home with his parents, and tries hard to find a job. In a tough economy this isn’t easy; for Matt it’s even harder. He finds it difficult to interact socially and he doesn’t always know the right thing to say in an interview. He had a part-time job in the stockroom of a local discount store, but was laid off last year.

In talking with Matt’s mother, I learned that he loves folk music, can run a 10K in 24 minutes, and dreams of getting out of the house and taking the ‘T’ to work. Matt’s diagnosis is Asperger’s syndrome, but his problem is that he can’t find a job.  Our question was: what can we do to help solve this problem that plagues not only Matt but more than 1,000 other young adults in Boston’s Jewish community?

The Ruderman Family Foundation, a leader in the area of disabilities, was asking the same question, and they were determined that with expertise, compassion, and commitment, it could be solved. Over the past several months the Foundation and Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston (CJP) have been exploring the best way to solve this problem.

Transitions to Work is the result. In this innovative new program, scheduled to roll out this fall, the Foundation is partnering with CJP, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) and Hebrew SeniorLife (HSL) to provide customized job training and job placements so Matt and others like him can work independently. Close collaboration between JVS and HSL and other Boston-area employers will create a proving ground for these young people – a place where they can learn job and life skills, explore employment options, and be trained for specific jobs.

Creative partnerships like Transitions are the hallmark of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which focuses on raising awareness, advocating, and including people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. And it’s young adults like Matt who will now have independent futures to look forward to. They, along with our entire community, stand to benefit for many years to come.

— Elizabeth Sternberg

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