Gov. Holcomb: “I want to make sure Hoosiers are meeting their true potential”
Washington, D.C., March 9 — As the economy expands, for the first time in decades people with disabilities are gaining jobs, success and independence. According to new data, 5,329 more Hoosiers with disabilities became employed. People with disabilities have previously 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.
As America’s governors gathered in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting to talk about these and other key issues during the Winter Meeting, Governor Eric Holcomb took questions about jobs for people with disabilities in Indiana. Governor Holcomb said: “We have to do more. I want to make sure Hoosiers are meeting their true potential and that they can pursue what they are passionate about. That includes folks who find themselves trapped in a cycle” He went on to add “[That includes] folks who are intellectually/developmentally disabled right now that could be doing so much more if they too had the opportunity.”
Theresa Koleszar, Director of the Indiana Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, agrees. “I am encouraged by increased employment opportunities … and agree with Governor Holcomb that more work is needed. Indiana’s vocational rehabilitation program has made efforts to increase focus on the quality of outcomes for individuals with disabilities.” To do this, Indiana has focused on restructuring employment services to be more focused on individual client needs and providing enhanced skills training for staff.
When asked about promoting educational attainment for students with disabilities, the Governor said that “Same deal [as the employment issue], we need to do more. And we’re going to.”
According to RespectAbility, a national organization that fights stigma and advances opportunity for people with disabilities, Indiana now ranks 27th on jobs for people with disabilities. In total, there are 485,824 working-age people with disabilities living in that state and 175,379 of them have jobs. With an 36.1 percent employment rate for Hoosiers with disabilities, Indiana now outperforms much of the country as a place for people with disabilities to be employed.
Governors have a critical role to play as the economy grows and state advance opportunities for citizens of all disabilities. Former Governor 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, Markell 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, 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.” Indiana had an overall high school graduation rate of 86 percent in 2017, but only 72 percent of the students with disabilities graduated. That puts Indiana students with disabilities behind other minority students who graduate high school at higher rates.
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,” Mizrahi added. “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