JobTech™ Demonstration Project will Train, Place Workers in Four States

Washington, DC, May 24, 2002 -- The Epilepsy Foundation announced today that the national organization has received a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train people with epilepsy in critical technology-based skills now in high demand in virtually every industry. The grant is for the initial phase of a three-year model demonstration project called JobTech™ to be conducted by the Foundation's local affiliates in Camden, NJ, Mobile, AL, Rockford, IL and Kansas City, MO.

The JobTech™ program will focus on basic customer service training, computer literacy and computer skills, advanced computer and technology applications and entrepreneurial training, leading to jobs in the new information-based economy. Participants will be prepared through training for jobs as computer programmers and technicians, systems analysts, sales and customer service agents, process control operators, and other positions that require knowledge and skills in computer technology and applications.

In survey after survey of adults with epilepsy, employment difficulties are cited as a major problem. Many workers with the disorder, when they are employed, hold jobs below their education and ability levels. Average lifetime earnings of workers with the condition are also well below the national average.

"Without competitive employment, you can never achieve real freedom or independence in this country," says Epilepsy Foundation board member, Joyce Bender, who chairs the Foundation's National Business Advisory Council that will oversee the JobTech™ program. "Here is an opportunity for people with epilepsy to gain access to freedom."

Bender, who has epilepsy, is president of Bender and Associates International, a Pittsburgh-based search firm for technology professionals. She also heads Bender Consulting Services, Inc., a firm she established to provide employment opportunities for Information Technology professionals with disabilities.

"We have shown in our own business that people with disabilities are an untapped resource that can help meet critical labor shortages in the new economy," Bender says. "The JobTech™ program will demonstrate that our experience is not unique. It will address the fears and misconceptions that prevent employers from hiring people with epilepsy, and demonstrate that hiring people with disabilities can work in any community or type of business."

"Most importantly, it will help people with epilepsy obtain good jobs with a living wage and career progression."

While technical training in the classroom and/or on-the-job is the cornerstone of JobTech™, the program will also provide placement, long-term follow-up and retention services, and coordination among employment and training organizations. Services will be delivered through established relationships with state vocational rehabilitation agencies, other social and employment services, and adult training and education centers.

The Epilepsy Foundation, with national offices in metropolitan Washington, D.C., and a network of affiliates throughout the nation, is the non-profit volunteer agency devoted to research, education, advocacy, and the provision of services in the community for people with seizure disorders and their families.

Epilepsy and Employment Background Information Dimension of the Problem
The annual economic cost of epilepsy to society and individuals with the disorder is conservatively estimated at $12.5 billion. Approximately 85 percent of the total or $10.7 billion is attributable to lost earnings and productivity. (C.E. Begley et al. Epilepsia, 41, 342-351, 2002)

Epilepsy a Special Challenge
Traditional vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs underserve and are less successful in placing people with epilepsy than specialized programs. A study conducted in ten states found specialized programs produced positive outcomes 50 percent of the time as compared to a 9 to 19 percent success rate for generic VR services. (R.T. Fraser et al. Epilepsia, 25, 332-337, 1984)

Cost to the Individual
Women who are mildly affected by epilepsy and achieve seizure control within two or three years of onset of the disorder have a loss of $ 59,157 in lifetime earnings. The lifetime earnings loss for women who are more severely affected is $140,178. The comparable figures for men with epilepsy are $209,727 and $316,583 respectively. The lower figures for women are due in part to lower wage norms in the workforce. (C.E. Begley et al)

Barriers to Employment
People with epilepsy face a Catch-22. If they disclose their epilepsy, they often do not get hired; yet, when they fail to disclose and have a seizure on the job, they are fired or forced to resign. Age-old attitudes and misconceptions about seizures and epilepsy contribute to the problem. Employers also have unfounded fears about worker safety and liability risks, higher insurance costs, absenteeism, stress-induced seizures and other concerns related to cost and productivity. The JobTech™ program includes an outreach to educate employers and coworkers about the disorder.

Psychosocial Ripple Effect
The inability to get a job, frequent loss of employment, and underemployment destroy confidence, independence and self-esteem. They limit options in virtually all aspects of life, including access to the social, recreational and daily living activities that most people take for granted. An important aspect of the JobTech™ program is the evaluation and supportive services that will be provided to assist participants in coping with these issues.

Information About The Epilepsy Foundation's JobTech™ Demonstration Project What is JobTech™?
JobTech™ is a three-year national demonstration project conducted by the Epilepsy Foundation with funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. Its goal is the training and placement of people with epilepsy for entry level and advanced positions in the customer services and computer technology fields.

Where Are the JobTech™ Demonstration Sites?

  • Alabama - Epilepsy Foundation of South Alabama, 951 Government St., Suite 2, Mobile, AL 35222
  • Illinois - Epilepsy Foundation of North/Central Illinois, 321 West State St., Suite 208, Rockford, IL 61101
  • Missouri - Epilepsy Foundation of the Heart of America Region, 6550 Troost, Suite BC, Kansas City, MO 64131-1217
  • New Jersey - Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey, 429 River View Plaza, Trenton, NJ 08611

How Were the Sites Selected
Selection of the demonstration sites was based on the following criteria:

  • Previous successful experience in providing employment services for people with epilepsy.
  • Current programs providing for social and personal adjustment to disability.
  • Current employment services that include effective linkage to local employers.
  • The existence of effective linkages to One-Stop Centers, workforce investment boards (WIBS), Job Training Partnership Programs (JTPA programs), occupational training programs, state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, and other rehabilitation and employment service providers.
  • Representation of different geographic and rural, urban, and suburban areas.
  • Diversity in terms of size of local Epilepsy Foundation affiliates.
  • Diversity in terms of consumer representation from minority populations.
  • Location in empowerment zones or enterprise community.

How Is the Project Managed?
The JobTech™ Program will be managed by experienced staff at national and local levels, with oversight on all aspects of the project from a National Business Advisory Council of volunteers organized by the Foundation.

The Advisory Council will meet twice annually with the purpose of:

  • Providing advice about and linkage to the workplace.
  • Assisting the Epilepsy Foundation build a strong national employment program.
  • Providing business input into the development of the employer awareness training package.
  • Facilitating linkages to their businesses at the local level.
  • Facilitating linkages to other businesses, corporations, and employer groups that the project and the Epilepsy Foundation and its affiliates can partner with on the local and national levels.
  • Assist with efforts to obtain supplemental funding from private and corporate sources.

Who is on the Advisory Council?
The Advisory Council is comprised of leaders from technology and customer services industries from around the country and also includes consumer representation.

Information contact: 800-470-1655, option 1
Edna Kane-Williams, ext. 657
Peter Van Haverbeke, ext. 641