Ramp Up, launched in 2013, is designed for people with disabilities whose employment needs are not met by other state or public agencies and who require help accessing the labor market. The program focuses on participants’ abilities rather than medical disabilities and offers one-on-one counseling and mentoring, and individualized work plans for finding jobs and developing careers.
Only 50% of Israelis with disabilities are employed, compared with 73% among working-age Israelis without disabilities; among recipients of disability benefits, only 20% are employed, mostly in jobs not commensurate with their skills or education.
The services for people with disabilities are offered at universal employment centers but are tailored for the needs of people with disabilities. The program includes preparation for the work world – boosting participants’ self-confidence in their abilities, identifying and strengthening their motivation, and providing them with tools and skills. It also offers opportunities to participate in workshops and classes offered by municipal or regional employment centers, specialized Ramp Up workshops and job placement. The program guides participants through the hiring process and integration into the workplace and connects them to support services.
?What’s Special about the Program
Ramp Up is always housed in a universal employment center to diminish any possible stigma for participants. Ramp up focuses on participants’ abilities rather than their disabilities. The program is committed to working with participants for the long haul, sometimes for up to 18 months, recognizing that entering the workforce presents unique challenges for people with disabilities.
The program offers individual counseling as well as group workshops. The sharing and empowerment that is created in the group sessions encourages many of the participants who have never dared to work take their first steps into the workforce.
The program provides a response for all kinds of disabilities and all segments of the population, such as ultra-Orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs, welfare clients and more. The program works in conjunction with community services and employers, enabling participants to take full advantage of all the resources and services at their disposal.
Shani, a single mother working as a secretary in a Haifa law firm, was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at the age of 48. The chronic disease meant she could not sit for long and had to reduce her work load and pressure. For a whole year she looked for other work, to no avail.
“At the (government) employment service they offered me all sorts of work, such as caring for old people or working 12-hour night shifts at a manufacturing plant. How did they think I would be able to work in my condition, and being a single mother and all?”
Shani turned to the Haifa municipal welfare services, which directed her to the Ramp Up program. She met with the Ramp Up coordinator Adi in July 2016 and both recall it was love at first sight. “At Ramp Up I discovered an unfamiliar and unexpected bounty: empowerment, workshops… unlike the employment service, where the focus is on work, at Ramp Up the focus is on counseling, accepting one’s illness and managing it. For me it was a miracle, having someone understand and support me,” Shani says.
Shani filled in assessment questionnaires, and with Adi's guidance, concluded that she wanted to remain a secretary but not in a law firm. Adi directed Shani to an employment empowerment workshop.
The 10 workshop sessions covered issues such as how to manage one’s illness and whether to disclose it to employers, laws on employment of people with disabilities, and more. “Suddenly we understood that the employer also has an interest in hiring us and that it’s a good thing to present the disability in advance… I was grateful for the opportunity and the support. We were told that we were good and special, we were infused with ambition…,” Shani says.
For Shani, the peak of the workshop was the day employers came to simulate job interviews with the participants. “We went through preparations, and the employers came and gave us real, tough interviews, at the end of which we were given feedback,” Shani recalls.
On the day after the feedback, Shani had an interview for a secretarial position. “I did everything they taught us, with self-confidence. I told the employer I could start work on Monday… He said I was only his first interview and he still didn’t know, so I made the decision for him and he agreed to a week-long trial,” Shani recounts.
After her first day at work, Shani was told the job was hers. She has been working there for several months, four hours a day, in a position that is commensurate with her capacity. When she encounters difficulties, Adi is there for her. They talk, message, meet and stay in touch.
Shani is also in almost daily touch with the other workshop participants through a WhatsApp group she initiated, which provides her with support and a social network.
Ramp Up is designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the labor market. It does so by integrating program participants into the workplace, developing their self-confidence and belief that they can hold a job. Each participant receives one-on-one counseling, and a tailor-made program is developed for that participant. In addition, existing employment services and community services are made accessible to them. Regional managers work with employers to change attitudes regarding the employment of people with disabilities.
The program operates within and as an integral part of existing employment centers. It provides regional service for a wide variety of disabilities, with the focus placed on individuals’ capacity and ability to undertake the placement process.
The staff consists of 14 coordinators at participating employment centers, as well as a regional manager in the north, another in the central and southern regions, a national manager and a training director.
The Program in Numbers
As of July 2017, 749 people with disabilities were taking part in the program.
From its start, 1,578 people have taken part in the program.
The job placement rate is at 52%.