People with disabilities, even significant disabilities, can and do make valuable contributions to the workforce. According to a 2013 Manpower Group Survey, 35% of employers are unable to fill jobs because of a talent shortage, and yet persons with disabilities are often excluded from the talent pool.
Erica Kishpaugh, the co-chair of our Employment Committee, recently participated in a conference call through the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on inclusive employment and diversifying the workforce. Keystone Human Services has made a Commitment to Action through CGI on “Disabilities: Social and Financial Inclusion for Women and Girls.” As part of this Commitment, Keystone is supporting the rights of women with disabilities to access employment, education, vocation training opportunities.
Through customized employment, persons with disabilities who may be viewed as “unemployable” can make valuable contributions to businesses. “Employment is the great equalizer,” said Michael McAllister, who was the co-founder and executive director of Networks for Training and Development and a powerful advocate for inclusive employment. “When people are employed, earning money, working side-by-side with others, many of the issues that separate people simply go away.”
Fundamental to a customized approach is the understanding that each person is unique. Each person has skills they can bring to the table and give value to a business, even if they may not be able to speak or physically complete a time sheet.
Through the customized employment process, we work with each person and business to highlight those skills and attributes. The important things to remember, though, is that finding a job for someone with disability is the same as finding a job for someone without a disability. Just like with anyone else, it’s important to learn what skills and tasks a person does well, and in what conditions they are most productive. We also learn about the person’s interests, because just like anyone else, they will be more engaged in their work if they like what they’re doing.
When it’s time to reach out to businesses, it’s all about who you know. We network. Think about how you got your first job. Most likely, you knew someone who knew someone who knew of a job opening—and that’s how you got the job. It’s no different for a person with a disability.
We look for businesses that will be a good match, where the tasks of the job align with the person’s skills and personal attributes to make a valuable contribution to the company. Sometimes, the company will analyze the various tasks performed by their current employees and reconfigure a selection of these tasks into a new customized job. In fact, the company may actually save money and become more productive by hiring a person with a disability. Both the person and the company benefit.
Everyone has something of value to contribute to a business. Customized employment is one way to discover those skills and turn them into actions to the benefit of both the person and the business.