ACL Awards Georgia-based Mentra Award for Inclusive Employment

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) in Washington D.C. recently awarded its top prize of $100,000 in its “Inclusive Talent Pipeline for American Businesses” challenge to Georgia’s Mentra. Mentra is the brainchild of passionate disability advocates Jhillika Kumar and Conner Reinhardt who are trying to place neurodiversity at the core of recruiting in a way that scales, treating every individual as unique and more than just a resume.

The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is excited about Mentra and its work, which is directly tied to several of the goals outlined in GCDD’s Five Year Strategic Plan, specifically around employment.

BY JOINING FORCES WITH GCDD, ADVOCACY ORGANIZATIONS AND INCLUSIVE EMPLOYERS, WE BELIEVE THAT TOGETHER WE CAN BRIDGE THE “DISABILITY DIVIDE” ONCE AND FOR ALL.“The students who formed Mentra came to GCDD looking for an opportunity to share the product they were developing. This provides great opportunities for people with autism and other developmental disabilities to connect with potential employers. GCDD staff met with the group and helped shape the product design and marketing effort. This is a real show of innovation and to win this award shows the potential when students come together to solve a problem,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of GCDD.

Mentra matches neurodiverse individuals with employers who value their strengths. It puts recruiters in front of candidates rather than forcing neurodiverse individuals to navigate through the challenging process of finding a job. Mentra’s key innovation lies in its matching algorithm that learns from an employer’s hiring needs and a neurodiverse candidate’s strengths to create career success.

“GCDD’s partnership with Mentra has taught us an important lesson: We are stronger together. Our research with GCDD, as well as the signed partnership during phase one of the competition, has been instrumental in understanding the needs of federal organizations across Georgia, as well as the pain points that exist for neurodivergents looking for employment. By joining forces with GCDD, advocacy organizations and inclusive employers, we believe that together we can bridge the ‘Disability Divide’ once and for all,” said Kumar.

In November 2019, ACL launched the Inclusive Talent Pipeline for American Businesses challenge competition to help businesses identify ways to help expand their recruiting and retention programs to better include workers with intellectual/ developmental disabilities (I/DD).

According to ACL, research shows American businesses that hire and support workers with I/DD see improved performance and productivity – 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profit margins. However, businesses that want to diversify their workforces do not always know how to implement effective talent pipelines that include people with I/DD, who experience many barriers to employment that lead to a higher unemployment rate when compared to their peers without disabilities.

Graphic explaining why the name Mentra?

ACL received more than 50 proposals for the challenge; five were selected to move on to phase two, where three finalists were chosen. On October 19, finalists presented the results of their pilot projects, and Mentra was chosen as the grand prize winner by a panel of judges.

Research shows American businesses that hire and support workers with disabilities see improved performance and productivity – 28% higher revenue and 30% higher profit margins.“As a fully neurodiverse team, winning this federal competition paves the path for Mentra to build a future that accepts and respects every human regardless of their gender, race or cognitive ability. We are excited to work alongside members of the Department of Health and Human Services to build a robust talent pipeline for the neurodiverse and scale Mentra’s services to every state in the U.S. by partnering with vocational rehabilitation centers, universities, and employers across the country,” Kumar added.

Employers wanting to learn more about Mentra are invited to schedule a demonstration here.

To use Mentra’s free, accessible web app to match with employers who value your strengths, click here.

Photo of Mentra Team. (l to r) Averie Brookie, Benjamin Lee, Conner Reinhardt, Shea Belsky, Jhillika Kumar, Jared Williams and Rachayita Giri