City of Denver Teams Up with Program to Foster Employment for Special Needs Community
Local Denver company, The Rhythm Within, which works with all ages and diagnoses of those with special needs, received a grant from the city to start a project aiming to foster employment and success between the special needs community and Denver employers. The project, called Higher with Heart, is still in the first stages, but the founder of both The Rhythm Within and Higher with Heart — Jonah Berger — has been wanting to launch since he recognized the obstacles faced by those with special needs when it comes to employment.
The website, higherwithheart.com, will have a similar model to a dating site: both potential employees and employers fill out a profile to find their best match. Individuals discuss their idea work environment and employers describe what their workplace and culture is like, and the site matches them up for maximum success.
When talking with Berger, he noted that the work environment is one of the most important factors when it comes to success in the workplace for many of those with special needs. He said that the noise, light, and other characteristics play into their ability to thrive: “I have clients that will react to factors that you and I wouldn’t think about, we’d just adapt. But for them, these factors can lead to a lack of success.”
One of the biggest obstacles the Higher with Heart team faced was their first: finding someone to build the website. While the grant they received was a few hundred thousand dollars, the website they’re aiming for would usually cost more than they had to spend. After hitting a dead end when trying to find the right company — one with the ability and heart to build the site, Berger came to Code, the Technical Talent Agency. The small recruiting firm, known best for their ties to the Denver tech community, gave Berger a few names of local companies that could potentially be a good fit. One of those companies, was Spire Digital. After the meeting, Berger emailed Spire and held his breath: the digital product development firm is moving into bigger projects, so there was no guarantee they would have the time or interest. Fifteen minutes later, they got a call from a head of Spire, who has a niece with special needs and said Spire wanted the project.
The next step for Higher with Heart is to reach out and meet with local companies to get them registered on the site when it’s live. Berger was adamant about the fact that if companies were open to just hearing him out, they would be intrigued to participate:
“My feeling is that any employer we meet with, who actually gives us the time, will understand. There’s tax benefits, there’s the benefit of having the public and special needs community know that you’re supportive and giving their support in return, and then there’s the soul that comes working with these guys that you don’t get any other way in life.”
Another main part of the project is helping companies navigate the inclusion of workers with special needs, Berger said, “you just have to agree to make the space for a couple of our clients, we’ll train you. We’ll do the rest.”