RAVENNA: In June, Branden Golden started work at Bean and the Baker.

The 17-year-old is one of 25 high school students in the Coleman Employment Services program, which helps people with disabilities find work in Portage County. In addition, they’re matching 70 individuals ages 16 to 24 in nine counties with employers.

Last year, they placed more than 500 people with disabilities in jobs across northern Ohio.

Over the next year, Coleman plans to help even more people like Golden find jobs.

“This is a really good economy right now,” said Ken Penix, chief officer of employment services. “A lot of employers are looking for entry-level employees.” Golden, a senior at Southeast High School, has a developmental disability. Last summer, he worked at Marc’s.

His first week at the Ravenna coffee shop, Golden learned soft skills and customer service. It wasn’t long before he was taking orders and making coffee.

“He does great work,” said Heather Tweeten, assistant shop manger. “He always knows what to do when he comes in.”

“I like it,” Golden said. “I bought new Nikes with my first paycheck. I had another job. I was working at Marc’s last summer. This is a lot different. I do a little bit of everything.”

Bean and the Baker in Ravenna and Hudson, Data Solutions and Marc’s are hiring people with disabilities. The group includes people with developmental disabilities and psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

“People need income,” Penix said. “I think everybody wants to work whether they realize it or not. Sometimes people get stuck by things society puts in the way and some people just don’t realize they can work and we want to help people explore and figure out employment opportunity that makes sense for them.”

For Golden, the work experience gives him a chance to build up his resume and figure out what he likes to do.

“When I was in high school, I had a couple of jobs that helped me explore careers, save up for college, pay bills,” Penix said. “Sometimes people with disabilities have been prevented just by circumstance of not having those summer job experiences to figure out what they want to do.”

About 1.5 million Ohioans of working age have disabilities, according to Cornell University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics. More than 30 percent of Ohioans with disabilities are currently employed, which means almost 1 million Ohioans with disabilities are out of work.