In an exclusive partnership with Best Buddies International, Fundación MAPFRE launched a national pre-employment-training program to empower students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) to achieve long-term successful employment through adulthood. Fundación MAPFRE is committed to achieving the UN Sustainability Development Goals and considers this program a part of their overarching effort to impact goal No 4, Quality Education.
TEXT: LINDA JOHNSON IMAGES: MAPFRE USA
Best Buddies International, a groundbreaking nonprofit founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, is a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for oneon- one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Best Buddies currently offers a school-based inclusion program through over 2,000 chapters worldwide and an integrated employment program with over 400 placements in the United States. Fundación MAPFRE offers the support and resources needed for people with IDD to further develop using educational and collaborative tools. This approach assists students in helps student feel confident, capable and most of all, inspired to achieve their dreams of finding a place in the workforce.
A classroom-based program will offer employment training and corporate mentorship to help develop students’ career ambitions. The program offers a people-first approach and provides training on the key components of self-advocacy/ mentoring, job exploration, workplace readiness as well as work- based learning. This training is used in conjunction with existing programs provided by the schools today. For older students, the program will include a series of in-depth sessions over time to introduce work opportunities and build critical job skills. Together, these experiences will increase the likelihood of long-term successful employment for people with IDD. In Massachusetts alone, 70 percent of people with IDD do not have an integrated job in the community. Studies have shown that pre-employment services offered during the transition out of special education are critical to the long-term economic security of people with IDD. Best Buddies and Fundación MAPFRE envision a world where people with IDD are employed at the same rate as neuro-typical adults.
The program officially launched in Massachusetts in March 2019 and already spans seven school districts with more than 50 students and is working with 15 potential employment placement partners. The program raises awareness of IDD and offers MAPFRE USA employees volunteer opportunities that align with MAPFRE’s workplace culture of Diversity and Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility.
MAPFRE USA recently hosted the inaugural Best Buddies “Explore Your Path to Employment” career panel and job exploration fair. Students were able to visit employer booths and speak with representatives about the employment opportunities within their workplace to identify which jobs matched their personal skills and interests. Members of the Best Buddies Jobs Program spoke as part of a career panel about their career paths and what motivates them to work. MAPFRE USA executives and employee volunteers participated in the event. “Pre-employment training is valuable for people who need assistance in preparing for the workforce,” said Alfredo Castelo, Chief Representative of Fundación MAPFRE in the U.S. “We are pleased to support this initiative to help people with IDD develop their skills and get jobs that will help them maintain their independence.”
“I was so impressed by MAPFRE’s focus on inclusion. They provided such a welcoming and supportive environment and were so respectful of the student attendees. We also felt honored by the fact that the Pr esident/ CEO of MAPFRE USA along with all of the other s taff and the employers took time out of their day to be ther e for the students. It was such a great opportunity for the students to network and learn about the v ast opportunities for employment. It was also inspiring for the students to hear from the career panelists about their success. We loved it! — Monique Cloutier, Algonquin Regional High School’s Transition Coordinator”.
The partnership between Best Buddies and Fundación MAPFRE shows that there are no limits for people with disabilities
“Being able to see the students in the classroom, exploring their post-secondary opportunities in an inclusive and empowering way, and then seeing these amazing individuals representing their careers on a stage and speaking with potential employers – it was such an amazing trajectory to witness. This event truly showcases the value of what Fundación MAPFRE supports in their partnership with Best Buddies! The sky is the limit in what can be offered to our friends with disabilities with its support!”
KATIE BRYDON, Director of Programs | BESTBUDDIES®
Many students for the first time were able to picture an authentic bright future. One that could include working at a hospital, as a radio announcer, as a fashion entrepreneur or any company they are passionate about. My key take away from the supervisors comments was that each adult with IDD on the car eer panel is an extremely valuable member of the team, committed to career advancement and growth. Thank you MAPFRE for bringing together like-minded individuals committed to full, authentic inclusion in our work-places. BEST EVENT EVER!!!
LAURA BERRY, Director, Jobs, BEST BUDDIES
Fundación MAPFRE and Best Buddies are exploring how to not only sustain, but also expand the program in Massachusetts and outline the next steps to replicate the program in US states. MAPFRE has sanctioned the Best Buddies relationship as an official opportunity for employees to volunteer with this organization. MAPFRE executives, management and employees will continue to engage and offer support to program participants through mentoring, mock job interviews, job exploration, on site tours, job shadowing and goal setting every year.
This exciting, innovative partnership offers MAPFRE and Best Buddies the opportunities to collaborate on other initiatives as well. The e-Buddies Pen Pal program and fundraising walks are areas in which MAPFRE employees have pledged their participation. In addition to formal opportunities created by the partnership, MAPFRE employees and their families are becoming more involved in other local Best Buddies programs and activities outside of the workplace.