All across Illinois, employers are realizing the value in partnering with DRS to provide training opportunities and hire individuals with disabilities. In doing so they have not only invested in their business, their people and their community but have also positively changed their company workplace culture. Through these hiring practices, employers have seen an increase in retention rates, better quality job matches, and a more hardworking and dedicated workforce.

As we begin October, which is National and Illinois Disability Employment Awareness Month, DHS-DRS would like to say thank you to the employers who have partnered with us to hire individuals with exceptional skills and abilities, and open the door to all businesses interested in forming a partnership that leads to success. One such business that has partnered with DRS to provided training opportunities as well as hire DRS customers is the Jacksonville Savings Bank (JSB) in Jacksonville, Il.

JSB has been a return customer of DRS since the fall of 1999, when John Eilering, Vice President at JSB, was first contacted by the School-to-Work Program Administrator at the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) in Jacksonville, Illinois. ISD was looking for employers in the Jacksonville community who would employ students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in part time, after school work opportunities.

"We knew we had an opportunity to provide useful skills to students learning about the world of work. We decided that having the students sort and prepare cancelled checks for mailing would not only teach work skills like staying on task, alphabetizing and sequencing, but also free up time for our staff to perform other needed work duties. In that way we help each other" said Eilering.

JSB has also made sure that the students job duties have kept pace with the changing times and technology. "When we stopped returning cancelled checks we knew we had to change the work opportunities for the students. Now we have them open mail documents such as proof of insurance, scan these items and file them. Mandy Beddingfield, the manager of our insurance department, has done a terrific job working with the students and their support staff", said Eilering,

Through this partnership, Mr. Eilering knows that ISD applicants will already have requisite skills such as strong math and communication skills, a good work ethic and knowledge of appropriate work behaviors including arriving to work timely and dressed appropriately. These are work skills Mr. Eilering considers "essential parts of the job".

John also talks about how hiring individuals with disabilities has had a positive overall effect on the workplace culture at JSB. "Not only have staff been accepting and worked closely with the students, but also our customers with disabilities It's undoubtedly changed the way we provide service," said Eilering, John stated that some staff have even stayed after work to learn conversational sign language in order to better communicate with the students.

John stated that partnering with DRS and the School to Work Program is a "win-win for both the bank and the students". He says that all businesses have certain needs to fill and to consider working with DRS when looking to hire. "The workers we've had want to work, they want to be here. We get a well trained employee that provides us with needed work production and the student learns work skills and life opportunities that build their confidence to be successful. That makes a difference in how we do business and how our customers see us," Eilering added.