Tuesday, August 15, 2017

From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities

There are many barriers that prevent people living with disabilities from accessing the employment market, most are often based on misconceptions of a disabled person’s abilities. As a labor pool, people with disabilities are a source of reliable workers, regardless of the nature of their disability.

 Jennifer Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility
On July 31, 2017, RespectAbility hosted From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities, a conference in Washington, D.C. RespectAbility is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with entertainment, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, and online media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. The summit’s central focus was on bridging the gap between entertainment, politics and disability advocacy. Featured guests included: Casting Director and Producer Leah Daniels-Butler, the One-Arm Golfer Tommy Morrissey, and Food Network host Marc Summers. The event was a celebration of the positive impact made by efforts to end stigmas and advance opportunities for the 57 million people living with disabilities. President of RespectAbility Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi — self-proclaimed “twice able” dyslexic and parent to a child with multiple disabilities — gave the opening remarks.

The summit examined the positive impact people living with disabilities could have on a business’s bottom-line. People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to the workplace, which benefit both employers and organizations. RespectAbility argued, “If we find the right jobs for the right people with [disabilities], it can and does increase the bottom line of companies.” 

Leah Daniels-Butler who is most notable for casting the award-winning film, Lee Daniels' The Butler and television’s Empire, shared why she is hopeful about the future of inclusive casting and the workplace in general, “There is a new generation pushing the disability movement forward. [Young people] are removing the stigma and are thinking differently.”

When asked by a member of the audience what advice he would give to a person with a disability trying to get into the entertainment industry, Steven James Tingus, National Disability Policy Expert and Actor answered, “Do your homework and be persistent, and get in the right way.” What exactly is the right way? Tingus added, “You work hard and start from the bottom at an entry level position and work your way up. That’s how you do it.” In essence, show up and show your value.

Leah Daniels Butler, Casting Diretor; Steven James Tingus, Actor
Disparities in employment, income and poverty are greater for people with disabilities living in New York City than they are at the State or National level. In New York City, there are 889,219 individuals with disabilities; that is, 11.0 percent of the population. The Bronx has the highest percentage of people living with disabilities in the five boroughs of New York City, while Manhattan and Staten Island have the highest numbers of people with disabilities. The employment gap between people with and without disabilities who are working is 41 percent and median earnings for people with disabilities lag more than $25,000 behind. Since stigma continues to impede the hiring of people with disabilities, employers must take action to improve the work environment. Ollie Cantos the highest-ranking blind person in the federal government, noted that we “must address disability diversity policies” and practices in order for people living with disability to see real change.

Ollie Cantos, Government Attorney
“People with disabilities have the ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances perhaps better than any other group and have long proven themselves to be dependable employees,” said Marc Summers, who has been the National Spokesperson for the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation and has appeared on Oprah, the Today Show and Dateline discussing the issue. Summers stated that his OCD made him persistent, nothing, not even hundreds of rejections would stop me.” 

Marc Summers, TV Personalty 

People with disabilities have fresh ideas on how to solve problems and complete assigned tasks. Brilynn Rakes, a visually-impaired dancer and RespectAbility Communications Fellow, is working on changing the existing narrative in Hollywood to ensure accurate and positive cultural media portrayals of people with disabilities. Rakes, who has performed works by Donald MyKayle, Christopher Huggins and Jose Limon, and was invited to participate in the New York City Finals of the International Ballet Competition and Youth American Grand Prix in 2012 and 2013, described how she learned to find her balance by utilizing her peripheral vision. Rakes said, “my balance is just as good as the elite professional dancers in the business.”

Tommy Morrissey, the 11-year-old one-arm Golfer — despite being born without most of his right arm — at the age of three was deemed a golf prodigy, and today travels the world advocating for other limb different children. Tommy’s father said, “My son is creating records, not breaking them!” 

Lauren Appelbaum, Director of Communications;
Jennifer Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility;
Darren Cole JobsFirstNYC 
RespectAbility’s From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities highlighted the untapped value of people living with disabilities and seems to be paving the way for more businesses to add people with disabilities to the diversity conversation and talent pipelines.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Adapting to the Future of Work - Summary & Highlights

With recent changes in technology, including a heavy uptick in automation and the proliferation in machine-learning, the employment landscape has undergone profound changes. As a result, young people are adapting to new realities of the workplace and rethinking the skills they need to compete.

JobsFirstNYC’s annual Adapting to the Future of Work: Skills for Tomorrow’s Economy, held on July 20, 2017, brought together more than 200 young New Yorkers to discuss the changing economy, future workforce trends, and economic equity. In partnership with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and Young Invincibles, we heard from panelists about internal talent pipeline development, multi-sector partnerships, employer engagement, possible evolutions of the nonprofit, and the ever-changing on-demand economy. All of our panels and speakers grounded their message in how to leverage different resources to best help out-of-school, out-of-work 16- to 24-year-olds access economic opportunities. The convening provided an opportunity to reflect, share experiences, perspectives and responses to the changing economy and at the same time give thought to understanding and preparing for the future.

Marjorie Parker opens the session

The convening highlighted the skills that are essential in today’s changing job market. Given the state of the economy, mixed livelihoods and self-employment are dominating the scene. Entrepreneurship is often born out of necessity. Young people need marketable skills and inspiring role models with whom to engage. The conference made clear that 21st century young people in New York City see the changes in the job market and are deeply curious about the skills they need to succeed. Adapting to the Future of Work is an important step in JobsFirstNYC’s path towards boosting youth employment by identifying the challenges and opportunities facing young people. We provide a space for young people to discuss the abstract concepts that have a very real implication on their future of work.

In her opening message, JobsFirstNYC’s Executive Director, Marjorie Parker, warned that the traditional idea of a job is shifting. We are moving towards an economy with more gig-based, precarious-employment options where people are hired to do work, get a project done, and be ready to move on as the business’s needs change. Parker went on to add that this conference — convened for the future talent of New York City — was designed to build upon lessons learned from last year's convening, thereby expanding the dialogue beyond merely what the future of work might look like into how to shape what it could and should be.

Derrius Quarles delivers his keynote

Building off of Marjorie Parker's opening, Derrius Quarles delivered our keynote address. Quarles is an unapologetic social entrepreneur, web designer, and author who secured over $1 million dollars in scholarship awards before entering Morehouse College where he graduated cum laude. The entrepreneur and author of Million Dollar Scholar spoke about overcoming obstacles and positioning oneself for success in this ever-changing job market. Addressing the mindset required to succeed in an economy driven by innovation and skills that will assist the attendees in becoming indispensable to potential employers, Quarles set the positive tone for the panelists and speakers to follow.

From right to left: Hannah Dehradunwala, Coss Marte, Rachel Cargle, Tony Gaston

The morning panel focused on Skills for Tomorrow’s Economy and featured Rachel Cargle, an entrepreneur, activist and writer, and Founder and CEO of The Loveland Group and Co-Founder of The Ripple, who spoke about empowerment, networking and the advancement of women and girls worldwide; Coss Marte, a former federal inmate, and founder of ConBody spoke about how he did not let his past mistakes get between him and success; and Hannah Dehradunwala, Co-Founder and CEO of Transfernation, spoke about her tech-based solution to hunger and food waste in New York City. The panel was moderated by Tony Gaston, Senior Manger of Business Solutions, Per Scholas New York, and lifted up examples of successful young entrepreneurs and the skills they applied to get where they are for the audience to consider as they plan out their long-term career paths.

Commissioner Bill Chong welcomes young people to the lunch session

Our afternoon session kicked off by Commissioner Bill Chong of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, who welcomed the young adults back from their morning workshops Commissioner Chong has more than 25 years in senior management positions in the nonprofit sector and the City, State and Federal governments, and he spoke to the experiences that lead him to his appointment as Commissioner of DYCD.

From right to left: Carmon De La Rosa, Tremaine Wright, Kevin Stump

The discussion continued with a panel discussion with New York State Assembly members Carmon De La Rosa of Assembly District 72 and Tremaine Wright of Assembly District 56 that was moderated by Kevin Stump, the Northeast Director of Young Invincibles. That conversation was followed by a panel focused on Opportunity Youth United: Identity, Advocacy, and Your Career, and featured Lashon Amado, Kimberly Pham, and Teresa Rivera representing the National Council of Young Leaders, and Jacob Patterson, the Founder of Gender Talk, and was moderated by Jamiel Alexander, a Senior Fellow with the Aspen Institute’s Forum for Community Solutions and a member of the National Council of Young Leaders as well.

From right to left: Jacob Patterson, Jamiel Alexander, Kim Pham, Teresa Rivera, and Lashon Amada

Both panels came at the same question from different angles, specifically what are ways young adults can ensure their voices are heard and their priorities considered by their local elected officials and policy makers? Opportunity Youth United discussed this as career advocates, whereas the Assembly members spoke from their perspective on what has helped to shape their opinions. The session was closed by Najee Omar, a Spoken word artist, Educator and Founder of Spark House artfully articulated the struggles facing young people, the importance of living in one’s truth, and equity as it relates to the future of work.

Spoken word artist Najee Omar takes a bow

Our breakout sessions gave young people an opportunity to interact in smaller groups and learn from amazing educators. Our “Employment and the Future of Work” workshops included:
  • Growing Your Skills for the Green Economy, a workshop looking at sustainable or green career paths, was offered by Green City Force’s Mara Cerezo, Senior Program Officer; Aram Marcelle, Career and Alumni Services Manager; and Stephanie Klocke, Career and Alumni Services Manager; 
  • Digital Bootstrapping: Solution to Tech’s Diversity Issue, considered ways that you can apply your personal experience to tap an untapped market in the digital age and was taught by The Knowledge House’s Joe Carrano, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer; 
  • Authenticity: Leveraging Your Unique Identity as a Competitive Advantage in Today’s Workforce, explored ways to analyze and navigate different company cultures and was offered by Made in Brownsville’s Albert N. Kakudji, Chief Operating Officer; and 
  • From Uber to TaskRabbit: Find Gigs, Make Money, and Launch Your Career, delivered by Samaschool’s Jen Curry, Director, NYC, gave attendees the breakdown on the gig economy, how to start using it to make some extra money, and how to leverage that additional job experience to land a full-time career. 

The afternoon breakout sessions tackled, “Advocacy, Equity, and the Future of Work” and included
  • #QueerAF: Loving and Protecting Ourselves, a workshop claiming a healing space for queer folks and allies in the audience, was put together by Jacob Patterson, Founder of Gender Talk
  • Know Your Rights as a Young Adult Immigrant, offered tools to the immigrant community for dealing with ICE in the current political environment and was put on by Make the Road New York and delivered by Suzanne Del Rosario, Intern; 
  • Think 2040: Can a Shift in the Rules Help Change the Future of Our Economy? by The Roosevelt Institute’s Aman Banerji, Senior Program Associate, examined how a shift in the rules could help change the future of our economy; and 
  • Know Your Rights, Youth Represent’s staple workshop laying out a guide to what’s legal and what isn’t for employers to ask you when you’re on the interview – especially if you have experience with the criminal justice system – was delivered by Eric Eingold, Staff Attorney. 

Finally, we would like to thank everyone who attended Adapting to the Future of Work: Skills for Tomorrow Economy, as well as, all of our presenters, partners, funders, and young people who made this event possible. We look forward to our next event with all of you as we work towards expanding opportunities for out-of-school, out-of-work young New Yorkers. If you were unable to join us this time, we look forward to seeing you next year for our 2018 Adapting to the Future of Work convening.