East Bay Innovations (EBI) was founded nearly 30 years ago by Executive Director Tom Heinz. The private nonprofit is known for helping individuals with disabilities find and retain employment and establish independent lives. EBI's services for employers are an important element in the success of their clients in the workforce.
"In addition to our direct hire services for employers, we also set up internship programs for companies and agencies, and cover the EBI interns' pay and benefits while they gain valuable experience in real work settings," says Heinz. "After a successful internship, our clients are considered for regular, full-time work by their internship hosts. Our services act as a reasonable accommodation at no cost to employers. Once hired, our clients receive job coaching from EBI staff. While support decreases over time, EBI staff remains available to support clients and employers as long as they're employed."
East Bay Innovations is one of the contracted nonprofits of the State of California's Regional Centers that provide services to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Individuals served by EBI rarely compete well for jobs compared to non-disabled applicants, according to Heinz. But clients can be very successful in the workplace, even if they lack formal education or experience, thanks to the nonprofit's training programs and ongoing support.
As reported by the television program 60 Minutes recently, many adults with autism have a hard time finding a job but more companies are discovering the unique skills and potential they offer. That is true for EBI clients as a whole. Employers might be surprised at the variety of jobs clients do and the skills they possess, says Heinz. Some clients have gone to college and have education in targeted fields. Some have strong administrative skills. Some have technical skills that can be applied to a variety of jobs. Many clients have other financial support because of their disabilities, so they appreciate entry-level work opportunities that they can handle well. All are passionate about working.
"People with disabilities are significantly unemployed but should be a valued part of the workforce," notes Heinz. "We are committed to providing each client with thoughtful, comprehensive support for their success. We know that an employer's comfort level is key in their willingness to hire from East Bay Innovations. That's why the free services we provide are designed to help our employers with workforce retention as well as promotional opportunities for our clients."
EBI has many success stories for both clients and employers. Two EBI clients, for example, were hired for administrative work in the Alameda County Sheriff's Payroll and Human Resources departments following their internships. Another EBI client provided administrative support during an internship at the Alameda County Administrator's Office. After the internship ended, she was hired for a comparable position in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
Heinz founded EBI partly in response to witnessing the challenges of his mother, who developed scleroderma when he was ten. This terrible form of arthritis affects one's internal organs and results in the tightening and hardening of skin patches. Heinz was 18 when his mother died.
"She was an incredibly kind, compassionate person and always held her head up high even though people reacted to her cruelly as her body declined," notes Heinz. "She taught me that everyone has value as a person, despite any medical challenges they may endure. I learned from her that each and every one of us has a place in our society and needs respect. People with disabilities encounter many barriers to living a life with the same options as non-disabled people. We don't want to assist someone to just find a job. We want to help people get a job that pays a living wage and a career path. A job for our clients is a huge step towards self-sufficiency and independence."
For more information about East Bay Innovations, please visit www.eastbayinnovations.org.
To view the 60 Minutes report called Talent on the Spectrum, please visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnAUy4BM0w8&ab_channel=60Minutes.