Earlier today, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Chair of the State Assembly’s Subcommittee on Autism Spectrum Disorders, announced $150,000 in funding he secured in this year’s state budget to launch “The Inclusive Entrepreneurship and Employment Program” at SUNY Schenectady in partnership with Schenectady County and Our Ability, Inc. Santabarbara was joined by Dr. Steady Moono, President of SUNY Schenectady, Schenectady County Legislator Richard Ruzzo and John Robinson, CEO of Our Ability for the announcement at SUNY Schenectady.
The program will focus on providing differently abled persons with education and preparation for entrepreneurial and/or employment pursuits. SUNY Schenectady is slated to begin offering training for persons with disabilities this fall in partnership with Our Ability, Inc., a disability owned and operated business in Albany that builds employment opportunities through job platforms, employment webinars, a digital profile system, and personal empowerment.
Students will take courses, at no cost to them, in one of two tracks: Entrepreneurship or Employment. The first-year pilot will assist 15 disabled individuals over a one-year period make an empowered decision to become an entrepreneur or to pursue employment, and then support them as they pursue that choice with education, trainings, skills, and access to resources needed for success. The College expects to offer the program for a total of four years, through August 2025, with the expectation to enroll 15 new people each year. A majority of participants will be drawn from the Capital Region with training taking place in Schenectady.
“This exciting new program will provide differently abled persons with a unique college experience that focuses not only on education, but also preparation for entrepreneurial and employment pursuits,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “We must do more to create an inclusive, accepting society that values all of its members and takes steps to ensure everyone can participate and thrive. That’s why I’m working to make new opportunities like this a reality for the disability community,”
“We’d like to thank Assemblyman Santabarbara for securing funding for the Inclusive Entrepreneurship and Employment Pilot program right here at SUNY Schenectady,” said Schenectady County Legislator Richard Ruzzo. “This inclusive program will have a lasting impact on students, and their families, by empowering them with the tools and skills that can help them succeed and follow their passions.”
Dr. Steady Moono, President of SUNY Schenectady, said that the program is a prime example of the College providing access for students of all abilities to take courses that enhance their current skills or lead to completing degrees and certificates. “This wonderful new partnership with Our Ability, Inc., allows us to further embrace our mission to empower every student in their pursuit of lifelong success, and it provides pathways for students to become entrepreneurs or expand their employment opportunities,” he said. “Everyone should be able to follow their dreams and aspirations and this program will allow more students to do just that by providing necessary supports to access the best education, training, skills, and resources required for their success. Many thanks to Assemblyman Santabarbara for his advocacy and support.”
John Robinson, who is CEO of Our Ability, Inc., said that partnerships are the key. “Opportunities for people with disabilities are so important, and it begins with local partnerships,” Robinson said. “We are so proud of the work that SUNY Schenectady and our political leaders led by Assemblyman Santabarbara are doing to support opportunities, education, and employment for our community.”
As part of the Entrepreneurship track, students will take courses that are part of the College’s Entrepreneurship Certificate program. Courses include Introduction to Business, Business Plan Development, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Sales and Service. Included in the Employment track are a variety of credit and non-credit courses in several areas of training including Culinary, IT, Medical Billing and Coding, and Horticulture offered in conjunction with Schenectady ARC.
SUNY Schenectady staff from the Office of Workforce Development and Community Education will cover critical components including professional skills, effective communication, active listening, workplace discipline, time management, conflict management, and financial literacy. In addition, courses on computer skills such as Microsoft Office and QuickBooks will be offered. Our Ability, Inc., will encourage potential participants to develop online career profiles via the Jobs Ability portal, assessing employment experiences, skill interests, and credentials. Both groups will also work with participants and prospective companies they are interested in working for to determine best matches for both parties.
Sarah Wilson-Sparrow, Vice President for Workforce Development and Community Education, at SUNY Schenectady, noted how the program will have a positive impact on students and the community. “We are so pleased that this funding has come through to support our community members,” she said. “The Inclusive Entrepreneurship and Employment Pilot Program for Persons with Disabilities, will provide disabled individuals with access to the necessary supports and training/education to start their own business and/or move into sustaining wage employment. We cannot wait to get started!”