Divisions of A-Plus Consulting comprise A-Plus Apprentice, A-Plus Signs, and A-Plus Innovation.
- A-Plus Apprentice provides human resources consulting and training and also matches employers with special needs trainees.
- A-Plus Signs furnishes and installs architectural and wayfinding signs for general contractors in the construction industry.
- As the name implies, A-Plus Innovation is focused on creativity and new approaches to science and technology research. Our team created a winning NASA solution to protect astronauts against space radiation.
Following the end of the Space Shuttle program, NASA faced both local and national strategic communication challenges as the future of space exploration remained in question. Leveraging our understanding of NASA and use of social media, A-Plus-Consulting LLC provided strategic communications campaign support for NASA during the Vertical Assembly Center (VAC) unveiling at Michoud Assembly Facility.
Working with NASA leadership, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) management team, and elected state and local officials, we used our understanding of NASA objectives, key economic impacts, benefits to the local workforce, and overall significance to the future of the space program at MSFC to target specific strategic messages. We developed media releases aimed at government, contractor, and local populations using social media to convey the desired NASA messages across a wide range of scientific and technical media outlets.
Most recently, NASA selected our abstract for oral presentation at a NASA Blue Sky Space Radiation workshop held October 9, 2019. We presented an all-natural effective oral formulation to NASA for protection against space radiation. Collaborators on the project are Dr. Lindsay Quarrie and Gaetano Lardieri.
We are currently seeking funding to conduct the Phase I dose-finding study for the most effective and safe all-natural combination product.
A-Plus Apprentice provides training and matches employers with special needs trainees for real-world careers.
Founder Helena van der Merwe is fond of telling this story: “People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience emotions differently from non-ASD people. One of my most profound moments came during a conversation with a friend’s ASD child, a boy who hardly ever smiles. While taking a ‘selfie’ with him, he saw his face on the smartphone screen and smiled a huge grin. This a-ha! moment demonstrated the possibility of breaking through the autism curtain.”
Our team has adopted some Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Training methods and has brought them to public and private schools under the authority of the Department of Education. In doing so, we have for the first time built a bridge between the two agencies to foster efficiency, collaboration, and communication. To quote Executive Director Dr. Regina M. Peter of Newmark High School: “Apprentice programs as a training method have a long, successful history. Customizing Community-Based Instruction (CBI), Person-Centered Approaches (PCAST), and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs from the Department of Education (DOE) with the addition of Registered Apprenticeship curricula from the Department of Labor can accomplish the goal of smart, reality-based transformation in schools.”
A-Plus Apprentice was featured in Authority Magazine, January 23, 2020 in an education interview series with Penny Bauder and Yitzi Weiner: “Five things that should be done to improve the US education system” with Helena van der Merwe from A-Plus-Consulting.
In May 2019, A-Plus Apprentice addressed the New Jersey State Board of Education. Below are some excerpts of the address:
YOU are the decision-makers and policymakers with the power to transform education in the state of New Jersey. That is why I am here to discuss our pioneering A-Plus Apprentice program. The Registered Apprenticeship program is our student-centric venture that matches high school students (18–21 years old) diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with appropriate employers for apprenticeships.
To date, we have recruited 50 students from two counties for the A-Plus Apprentice program which customizes curricula based on student skills with the assistance of school principals, SLE teachers, job coaches, and other special needs staff using student Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Our first concentrations are in graphic design, digital marketing, and e-commerce specialist and cashier roles, with more to follow.
We leverage government resources and infrastructure by providing our program in-school and not after school. In some school districts, art teachers are often the first to be cut from school budgets. We can fill that void for students.
The Boggs Center at Rutgers University partners with us to provide training for employers to help them understand hiring and employing people with disabilities.
Our instructors give 144 hours of related technical instruction, and apprentices work 2,000 hours per year, supervised by schoolteachers and an employer mentor in the school. After completing our program, each apprentice earns a designation from the Bureau of Apprenticeships, a federal agency.
The problem of unemployment and underemployment among autistic adults also has a huge economic cost. The annual cost of autism is estimated to be $126 billion in the US, a number that has more than tripled since 2006. The diagnosis rate in New Jersey continues to outpace the rest of the nation with 28 autistic preschoolers per 1,000 as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Primary caregivers, typically mothers, are called upon to serve as their children’s case managers and advocates, and on average, earn 56% less than mothers of children with no health limitations.
There is no cure for autism. Only 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs, while 9% work part-time. Thus, there is a high unmet need for employment and suitable careers.
State rules mandate that when students who have been attending specialized private schools turn 18, they must then return to their original public schools. Many students resist the change. The solution? With A-Plus Apprentice, students can remain in their familiar schools. Bonus: they receive individualized training in our earn-while-you-learn program
Advocates for children with disabilities are cheering a 2017 decision by the US Supreme Court involving an autistic student. In establishing more-ambitious academic standards for special education students, this represents a clear win for the modernization that I am promoting here and now [end of excerpts from address].
We have four curricula approved and finalizing approval to launch the program. Current service providers on the project are Joel Levin, John Mitrano, Joshua Weiss and Bob Brown. Our long-term vision includes a technology platform and understanding genetics of ASD.
A-Plus Signs is active in a relatively unknown area of the construction industry. That is designing, manufacturing, and installing exterior and interior signs for airports, train stations, office buildings, streets, and highways.