By Bryan Horwath
– Reporter, Wichita Business Journal
It didn’t take long for Envision Inc.’s new downtown workforce center to start paying big dividends.
The National Industries for the Blind this week announced a partnership with Envision and its William L. Hudson BVI Workforce Innovation Center to create 500 new jobs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired by 2022.
“This is a result of building our new workforce innovation center,” says Michael Monteferrante, Envision’s president and CEO. “The National Industries for the Blind has recognized what we’re doing here with knowledge-based jobs. They want to align themselves with what we’re doing.”
In a news release, Kevin Lynch, NIB’s CEO, had high praise for Envision and North Carolina-based LC Industries, Envision’s partner on the workforce innovation center project.
“As technology evolves, and the demand for new workplace skills grows, organizations serving people who are blind must adapt and evolve,” Lynch said. “NIB, Envision and LC Industries have been leaders in this change and are now uniquely positioned to transform the employment landscape for people who are blind through the delivery of advanced training and professional development …”
The NIB is actually currently putting the finishing touches on a new complex in Alexandria, Virginia, which will feature a workforce training space similar to Envision’s at 610 N. Main in downtown Wichita.
“They’ve seen what we’ve done here, so they want to collaborate with us to accelerate the opportunity to create white-collar professional jobs for blind people,” Monteferrante says. “Right now, our center is built and theirs isn’t yet. With Mike May in place, this is going to be their hub west of (Virginia). This is pretty exciting.”
May, executive director for the BVI Workforce Innovation Center, says the goal is to “significantly” reduce a national unemployment rate of around 70 percent for those who are blind or visually impaired.
The goals for the partnership will include a push for training for veterans who are blind and transitioning to civilian life, and an entrepreneurship program that will aim to help participants develop the skills necessary to run private businesses, the release said.
Featuring about 12,500 square feet of space, the BVI Workforce Innovation Center is located on the fifth floor of Envision’s downtown building. The space was completed earlier this year.