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Raising Hope For Jobs For The Disabled
If somebody asked you to define what a bank is, you probably wouldn’t use the word “hope” in your answer. But the Raise Hope Foundation, a non-profit co-founded by Verona’s Scott Chesney, is hoping banks and other businesses in the financial services industry will become key employers of people with disabilities.
The foundation has launched a Financial Services Academy in partnership with the Center for Financial Training and the Financial Services Talent Network (FSTN), a program of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, to provide employers with fully qualified candidates for full-time, part-time, or home-based jobs from a pool of trainees who have mobility challenges. Its fourth training class– 15 candidates including two veterans–is starting today.
“We want to put forth the best, most capable trainees possible who can compete with people who are able-bodied,” says Chesney, a nationally known motivational speaker who was paralyzed by a spinal stroke while he was a student at Verona High School.
Financial Services Academy participants get both specific industry training and a grounding in the special skills they need to balance work with living with a disability. Raise Hope has targeted financial services because it is one of the largest employers in New Jersey, and the metro New York area. But the financial services industry was also one of the early supporters of a new amendment to the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that will require employers who are federal contractors to get 7% of their workforce from among people with disabilities.
“We have specifically asked the banks what type of training would best prepare our people to be seriously considered for full- or part-time employment,” says Chesney, who laid groundwork for the program in a speech to human resources executives at a meeting of the New Jersey Bankers Association earlier this year. And these jobs can make a huge difference in the lives of the disabled: A trainee hired by Boiling Springs Bank will now be bringing in four times as much money as he was getting on disability. Investors Bank is the academy’s title sponsor.
Though the focus now is local, Chesney sees a national future. “I have received inquiries from people in Michigan, Chicago and Arizona,” he says. “They are excited about this. Part of the vision is to build satellite operations throughout the country. But we want to go slow and build a solid model.”
The Raise Hope Foundation is holding a fundraiser hosted by comedians Joe Piscopo and Jeff Norris on Thursday, October 17, at the Villa at Mountain Lakes. The foundation will be presenting the 2013 Raising Hope Leadership Award to Investors Bank President and CEO Kevin Cummings. PNC Bank and American Express are also sponsors of the event. Tickets are $200 per person or $2,000 for a table of 10. For more information, see its Web site or call 973-857-5000.
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