County launches program for developmentally disabled job seekers

Job seekers encouraged to attend career expo at Richmond Memorial Convention Center Sept. 30

Contra Costa County announced today the launch of the two-year Bridge to Success pilot program, which aims to provide “a pathway for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities to compete for regular county jobs at regular county salaries.”

The program identifies non merit-based positions for qualified people with developmental disabilities so they can avoid the competitive merit process, which requires applicants for County positions to pass an examination and be placed on an eligible list.

Bridge to Success aims to ensure disabled job seekers aren’t dissuaded or overlooked for jobs they can perform as well as their non-disabled colleagues.

‘“The application process for government jobs can be challenging and may prevent eligible candidates with developmental disability from getting jobs, even when they can do the work,” said Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair John Gioia, who spearheaded the program. “This contributes to the high unemployment rates for this population.”

The first jobs being offered under the program are beginning clerical and service aid positions in the County Health and Library departments. Candidates may be eligible to receive assistance with the application process along with job coaching from a nonprofit-supported employment service provider, according to the county.

This alternative hiring process isn’t new — similar programs have been implemented nationwide, including in San Francisco, Alameda County and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the county states. In 2013, the California Legislature adopted an “Employment First” policy for people with developmental disabilities that “identifies competitive integrated employment as a priority of state resources,” the county said.

“Historically, people with developmental disabilities are often lumped together as unemployable, but experience has taught us that this is very far from the truth,” said Heather Prince, a job coach with Futures Explored, a Contra Costa nonprofit providing supported employment services to the program. “It’s not just about having a job. It’s about feeling that they’re making a contribution to their community and are part of something important.”

For more information, visit the County’s Bridge to Success site.