Connecting the Community with Skills Center

A new Hollister-based nonprofit is geared toward connecting local businesses with neurodiverse employees to help expand disability services in the Ozarks.

By Peyson Mecke

Jan 2024

Vocational Instructor Darcell Fleeman and Skills Center student Isaiah.
Photo courtesy Imagine Technical InstituteVocational Instructor Darcell Fleeman works with Skills Center student Isaiah to learn manufacturing skills under BCI’s TrueManufacturing program.

For adults with disabilities, finding the right job path or career fit can be met with challenges—from industry of interest to managerial support. Finding the right fit can seem overwhelming for both employees and employers. Imagine Technical Institute (ITI) serves as that connector.

“ITI is the realization of a long-time dream of Hollister native Tim Connell,” says Nick Clinton-Elliott, ITI Regional Director. “His passion for people with disabilities developed as he volunteered for disability-related organizations following his son’s Autism diagnosis.” That inspired Connell to learn more about models of competitive employment and job training programs geared toward adults like his son. “He saw a need for more disability services in the community than were offered,”says Clinton-Elliott. “He partnered with Boone Center Inc. (BCI) out of St. Peters, Missouri, to help breathe life into ITI.”

BCI is an established organization with a similar model to ITI and with shared goals to empower people with disabilities in a competitive workforce. “Neurodiverse people, including those living with Autism or ADHD, can become stand-out performers because of the positive traits and skills they have including innovation, creativity, high levels of concentration, keen ability to detect errors, and the ability to excel at repetitive or routine work,” says Dee Gerstenkorn, Director of Marketing and Communications for BCI.

Those specific skill sets can apply to a variety of industries. “There are many jobs that translate well into the ITI training model,” says Gerstenkorn. “Our greatest experience is with manufacturing, hospitality, health care and social assistance support and warehousing.”

While ITI is just getting started, their program includes job placement and coaching, summer work programs for high school students, vocational training and benefits planning. They also offer support to the hiring business to ensure job placement is a good fit from all sides.

“The best type of job role for an individual is a job that a person is interested in,” says Clinton-Elliott. “At ITI, we try to match a person’s passions, skills and abilities to a fulfilling career where they are able to be an engaged employee.”

Businesses in Taney, Christian and Greene counties interested in hiring individuals with disabilities are encouraged to reach out to Clinton-Elliott at 417-763-2641 to learn more and get connected with their newest talent.