If you've been disabled for any length of time, you've probably come across NTI (National Telecommuting Institute) through the mail, online, or word of mouth. Their program, NTI at Home, has placed countless disabled individuals in work-from-home jobs.
But is it too good to be true?
I've plowed through many NTI at Home reviews online to arrive at the answer and I've distilled what I've learned in this article. But first, let's take a quick look at the NTI organization and understand how it operates...
WHAT IS NTI?
NTI is a non-profit organization that screens, trains, and places disabled people with companies they've partnered with to get them back into the workforce.
The majority of the work is phone-based (e.g., customer service, quality assurance, sales calls, etc.) but there are also some technical jobs available like medical transcription and data entry.
NTI offers both temporary and permanent contracts with small and large private companies including auto membership clubs, retail catalog services, customer service centers, and pharmaceutical businesses. Also, about ⅓ of disabled individuals work for governmental agencies like the IRS and Veteran's Affairs.
The pay for these jobs is in the neighborhood of $8-$10 per hour without benefits unless the contracting company hires you full-time.
As an employee, you're also given the choice to enroll in NTI's Ticket to Work program which is a back-to-work program administered by Social Security to help get disabled individuals off benefits and back into the workforce.
WHO MAKES A GOOD CANDIDATE?
There are a couple requirements to qualify with NTI...
First, you have to be disabled and be able to prove it with a doctor documented letter.
Second, you need to be between 18-64 years old and willing to work at least 20 hours per week. The more flexible you are with your hours/days, the better the chance you'll match for a job.
Additionally, there are a few "should haves" to stand out:
- A clear, pleasant, and loud voice
- Access to a quiet working environment so your calls are free from noise
- Home office equipment like computers, headset, phone line, high-speed internet (depending on the job)
THE NTI JOB APPLICATION PROCESS
Applying to NTI is a multi-step process…
1. Complete Application
Fill out an online application and attach your resume after which NTI will contact you via email and provide you with information about your phone interview.
2. Interview with NTI
The point of the interview is for NTI to learn more about you and identify the best work-from-home job that meets your experience, qualifications, personality, and other qualities. NTI will probably then schedule you for certification training.
3. Start Training
Depending on the type of work you plan on doing, NTI training can last anywhere from 1-8 weeks, all paid for through federal grant money that's dispersed to the states.
The training itself is all done online with an instructor and consists of several group classes of 8-15 trainees. Individual classes usually last 4-6 hours for which you're not paid.
4. Apply to Open Job Positions
Once you complete the training and NTI verifies your eligibility, you're provided with login information where you'll see the positions available which you can apply for.
After applying, you'll be contacted with more information weeks or months later at which point you may be asked for an interview with the contractor. The chance of landing a job during this time is about 50% according to NTI.
5. Start Working
Once you get hired, you can start working from home!
Keep in mind that NTI acts as the middleman between you and the contractor. So even though you have direct communication with the contractor, you're still an NTI employee.
Also, the contracting company establishes the wage rate for which NTI doesn't take a cut.
UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES OF NTI
Good Job Security
Once you land a job and prove yourself responsible and hardworking, the odds of keeping the job are good, perhaps even better than going through the contractor directly.
NTI's On Your Side
According to NTI, over 75% of their staff is disabled and so they probably understand your challenges better than most employers and are more sympathetic to your cause.
You always get paid so long as you put in the hours, which is reassuring when every dollar counts.
As a non-profit organization, NTI doesn't charge upfront and has no recurring fees. The rate you agree on with the contractor is the amount you make.
A customer service job at a call center can be nerve wracking but not as much at home where nagging bosses and commotion aren't factors.
Long Job Application Process
While it's possible to land a job within a few weeks after applying, you might wait up to 9 months before something comes through!
Not Always Getting The Job You Want
Companies have different hiring standards and so you may have a harder time qualifying for certain jobs over others. For example, the IRS – while not a private company – supposedly has a low acceptance rate.
May Be Difficult to Land a New Job
Assuming you're a good employee, NTI claims to help place you with another company if your current job doesn't work out or if your contract gets canceled. But based on some individuals' experiences, priority is given to new applicants which means fewer job opportunities available to you.
Also, your prospects of finding a new job are less promising if you resign before fulfilling the standard 12-month service commitment to a company.
Minimum Work Commitment of 20 Hours Per Week
Most jobs through NTI require you to work 4-5 days per week at 5 hours per day. Depending on the level of your disability, this schedule may be tough to keep.
Speaking for myself, I can work 40 hours some weeks while only 8 hours the next, depending on how bad my symptoms are. Expecting an employer to accommodate such an erratic schedule isn't realistic!
While you may be able to negotiate hours with some contracting companies, you're more likely to have set shifts. Again, this poses a challenge to those whose symptoms change from one moment to the next.
Low Wages/Lack of Promotions
If you're used to earning well above minimum wage, you may find the pay rate with NTI mediocre. And as a work-from-home employee, the chance of getting a promotion is probably less than the person who shows up at the office every day.
Past History of Poor Management
Apparently, NTI used to have a high turnover rate among its staff (around 95%) which meant that you could have had a different supervisor every month without anyone really knowing anything about you. But it looks as if the tides have changed...
According to some reviewers, the organization has had more stability and commitment in the past five years so it may no longer be cause for concern.
Not All U.S. States Participate in the Program
While the majority of states take part in the NTI program, not all do. For the latest updates, check with NTI.
Dealing with Rude Callers
While not a reflection on NTI, the nature of telework can certainly try one's patience.
Despite its shortcomings, NTI is definitely NOT a "scam" as you might hear from some disgruntled people online. In fact, it's a great and legitimate way for disabled individuals to supplement their disability income. But as mentioned, it can take up to 9 months until an opportunity arrives (if at all).
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
Have you worked with NTI before? What's YOUR experience been like? Leave your comments below!