Empowerment Through Employment: Best Buddies and Career Group Companies

Finding the right job can be a challenge, but for members of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) community, finding any job can feel practically impossible. In the U.S., 85% of adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities do not have a paid job in the community, but we can change this. Although people with IDD have lower rates of absenteeism and sick leave than other employees, the IDD community still struggles with a stigma that prevents them from securing meaningful employment. Career Group Companies is committed to creating opportunities for all and promoting equity and inclusion in all areas of the workforce. As a partner of Best Buddies International, the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the stigma around IDD, we are proud to support access to employment in a community that is traditionally underserved and underrepresented in the workforce.


Our partnership with Best Buddies began thanks to the leadership and initiative of our Executive Vice President, Emily Levine. We sat down with her to discuss how this relationship began, and the importance of programs like Best Buddies for individuals with IDD and our community as a whole:

What made you interested in working with Best Buddies?

Emily Levine: My involvement with Best Buddies actually began when I was in high school. I was always really involved in community service and there was a chapter of Best Buddies at Brentwood School. Once I began to volunteer for the organization, I developed deep connections with the people I was working with and really fell in love with the mission. I don’t think I knew how deep my commitment was to the overall cause until I was fully entrenched in it and saw the impact that this organization had on so many people’s lives. It has been an eye-opening experience to spend so much time within the IDD community.

How did the partnership between Best Buddies and Career Group Companies begin?

EL: After high school, I went to college and moved to New York City after graduation. There, I poured myself into my career and was laser focused on the recruitment industry. When I moved back to LA from New York, it was actually one of my clients who emailed me asking me for a donation to Best Buddies. I immediately said yes, and explained my affiliation with group. He happened to be on the Advisory Board in LA and suggested I considering joining.


As I began to reconnect with the organization and learn more about how many people with IDD struggle with finding employment opportunities, I immediately saw the potential for a partnership between Career Group Companies and the Best Buddies Jobs Program. I thought there could be a really great synergy between us and that we could be instrumental in raising awareness. I wanted to personally become involved in the Jobs Program and offer our services to the community. There can be so much anxiety that comes with the job search for anyone, but it is especially difficult for those in the IDD community, so I wanted to be able to act as a resource however I could. I am continually so grateful to be able to partner with Best Buddies and share in their mission in my volunteer work, and how I have integrated the program within our company.

To this day, I'm on the Advisory Board and I fundraise for the organization. I have received overwhelming support from the CGC team that has been excited to integrate the values of Best Buddies into our philanthropy here at the firm.  We love going to the Friendship Walk each year and we have attended the Champion of the Year Gala for many years.  

What challenges do people with IDD face in the workforce?

EL: There is an alarming percentage of people with IDD who cannot find work. 85% of people with IDD do not have full time jobs. It's a difficult employment market in many ways for a lot of people, but especially in this community, it is particularly tough.  

I think even once a job has been secured, finding community and feeling comfortable at work can present its own challenges. It’s more than just supporting this community through employment; it’s also making sure that they are part of the staff and given meaningful work that makes them feel valuable and utilized.

What has your experience partnering with the Jobs Program been like?

EL: When I rekindled my relationship with Best Buddies as an adult, I had said I was going to do my part to introduce my clients to the Jobs Program and see where we could find opportunities for members of the IDD community who were looking for work. Many of our clients have commitments to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and being able to foster these relationships has been so rewarding for everyone involved.  

It was really important to me that CGC also participate in this program so I worked closely with our HR department and executive leadership team to interview and onboard our first hire through the Jobs Program. She has been such a great fit for us and we actually just  celebrated her One Year Anniversary a couple of months ago.  

What are some ways to support Best Buddies and the IDD community?

EL: I think learning more in general about IDD is important. Spending time with people who have IDD is a good place to start. Having a buddy through the program has been life changing for so many people involved. I have even found that watching shows like Love on the Spectrum is a great way to gain an understanding and a little bit of perspective about the community.  

What’s next for CGC and Best Buddies?

EL: We've already taken our partnership with Best Buddies nationwide, so it's been so rewarding to see our different offices in New York, Miami, LA, San Francisco, and Dallas attend different events and the annual Friendship Walks. I still am committed to expanding the Jobs Program with our clients and I would love to see more clients interview candidates from the IDD community and find opportunities to partner with this outstanding program.

To learn more about Best Buddies and ways to support the IDD community, you can click here. If you are interested in hiring through this program, please reach out to your Account Manager for more information or click here to learn more.  

Career Group Companies boasts a significant track record of consistently placing a diverse group of temporary and full-time employees. You can learn more about our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion here. Let’s find your people.

Emily Levine

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As Executive Vice President at Career Group Companies, Emily Levine plays an instrumental role in the success of the Full-Time division, where she recruits for clients in both Los Angeles and New York. Since joining Career Group in 2010 as a Recruiter, Emily has excelled at building meaningful business relationships with both clients and candidates. Emily is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she received her BA in Communication. While not working, she enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.

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