Washington, D.C., March 13 – As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities are gaining jobs, success and independence. According to new data, over 14,556 more people with disabilities in North Carolina gained employment; an amazing rise. People with disabilities previously have been left out of periods of economic growth. Today’s workforce system is better aligned to enable people with disabilities to succeed, just like anyone else.
During the NGA Winter Meeting, RespectAbility took the opportunity to recognize Governor Roy Cooper with an award for the job gains being experienced by people with disabilities in his state.
In February of this year Mandy Cohen, the secretary of North Carolina’s department of health and human services, revealed their new program to reduce the employment gap between those with and without disabilities in North Carolina. The program is called EveryBody Works NC and will provide resources for employees with disabilities; including help through the recruiting and screening process, job training and coaching, and even providing modifications to the work environment.
Cohen told the North State Journal that “there’s an untapped labor market in our disability community…If you’re looking for good workers, we can help identify those folks.”
According to RespectAbility, a national nonprofit organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, North Carolina now ranks 35th on jobs for people with disabilities. In total, there are 722,636 working-age people with disabilities living in that state and 249,230 of them have jobs. With a 34.5 percent employment rate for its people with disabilities, North Carolina now outperforms states like New York and South Carolina.
Governors have a critical role to play as the economy grows and states advance opportunities for citizens of all disabilities. Former Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware is a model of what a state chief executive can accomplish by making jobs for people with disabilities a key priority. As Governor, he chaired national initiatives with both the National Governors Association (NGA) and later the Council on State Governments (CSG). Both the Better Bottom Line Initiative of the NGA and CSG’s Work Matters Report were focused on fighting stigmas, supporting strong public policies and using best practices at the state level.
A key finding in both reports was that people should look to major companies that have made a commitment to employing people with disabilities to see what is possible. Nationally, big name businesses have been at the forefront of driving success and inclusion. Companies including JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucks and Walgreens have seen that people with disabilities are successful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines. Indeed, many people with disabilities also have spectacular abilities.
RespectAbility, like most governors and employers, emphasizes the critical link between education attainment and workforce development.
“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director at RespectAbility. “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.”
North Carolina had an overall high school graduation rate of 85.9 percent in 2016, but only 68.9 percent of the students with disabilities graduated.
Nationally, 343,483 Americans with disabilities entered the competitive workforce last year.
“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”
For more information on state initiatives: http://drivedisabilityemployment.org