January 01. 2014 8:20PM

Six graduate from the PLUS Co.'s INCOME program

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — A group of young adults are ready to face their disabilities with a newfound education, ready to seek employment and hopefully become independent workers in the new year.

Six students, with various intellectual disabilities, recently graduated from the INCOME program operated by The PLUS Company of Nashua.

The unique program is designed to provide the tools and skills necessary for young, challenged adults to become successfully employed in the community.

According to officials with The PLUS Co., the program prepares students for full or part-time jobs using a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training to help students strengthen and develop clerical skills such as scanning, copying, data entry, phone use and filing.

After completing the program that teaches individuals how to pursue careers in office administration, six residents are now prepared to find jobs of their own. The new graduates include Daniel Batten, Joseph Bell, Sean Chadwick, Victoria Cote, William Faith and Kristina Saif.

The classmates participated in a special commencement ceremony recognizing them for their achievements last month at Nashua City Hall. Each student completed an 18-week course and an internship at a local business, teaching them the skills necessary for real world employment, according to organizers.

"We know for a fact that successful businesses require the ability to adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace, and who knows better how to adapt to challenging circumstances than individuals with disabilities," said Leah Brokhoff, diversity and inclusion manager at BAE Systems.

Brokhoff, keynote speaker at the graduation, said the six new graduates are ready to add value to any large or small business.

According to a release from Cynthia Andreola, director of marketing and communication for The PLUS Co., the graduates are now beginning their employment search.

"Local businesses should be aware of the extraordinary work ethic and capabilities these graduates can bring to any company," says the release. "Aside from demonstrating competency with everyday office technologies and filing processes, graduates of the INCOME Program bring something special to the workplace — enthusiasm. The PLUS Co. graduates want to work, and they make it known through their work ethic and willingness to take on any challenge."

Local business partners that have helped provide office skills training to the students include Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, BAE Systems, Dartmouth Hitchcock, Dyn Inc., Eaton & Berube, Foy Insurance, Healthy at Home, Gateways Community Services and the City of Nashua.

Two previous graduates interned at Nashua City Hall and eventually obtained permanent employment by the city, according to Andreola, who said they are now performing great on the job. To date, 23 students have graduated from the program, and 15 have achieved their employment goals.

Linda Panny, a Nashua City Planner, said previously that there are more than 50 million people in the country living with disabilities, which is a large pool of potential workers.

"One of the things that I observed through our internship was that people with developmental disabilities have highly developed abilities as well," said Panny. "Many administrative tasks that consume pieces of time from staff members can be consolidated into a specific job function, increasing productivity across the board and increasing job satisfaction."

Any businesses looking for full or part-time office support are asked to contact Alicia Hines at 889-0652 for more information about possibly hiring a recent INCOME graduate.