Dayton’s order is a welcome step for the state, but private sector needs to do its part, too.
We applaud Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent executive order to increase the percentage of people with disabilities employed at state agencies, as well as the additional steps he asks the state to take in order to achieve this goal (“Dayton orders state to hire more disabled people,” Aug. 7). The governor rightly recognizes the importance of the state government being a model employer, and the state is showing the necessary leadership as it encourages private industry to hire more job seekers with disabilities as well.
Those of us who do not work in the governor’s office must also take similar action on a number of fronts so that people with disabilities can secure jobs outside of state government. A number of advocates are working with state officials on Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan to ensure a statewide public policy that encourages employment as the expected outcome for working-age citizens with disabilities.
National research shows that most people with disabilities can find and hold jobs in a variety of workforce settings if expectations are high and employers capitalize on a job-seeker’s unique set of talents and skills. We and other partners in the disability community are educating employers as well as people with disabilities and their families so they have the knowledge, skills and support to plan for a life in the workplace.
Dayton correctly identified people with disabilities “as an underutilized source of talent necessary to meet workforce needs.” Fewer than 20 percent of Minnesotans with intellectual and developmental disabilities are participating in the workforce and earning competitive wages, compared with 70 percent for our citizens without disabilities. Minnesota can do better.
Minnesota’s need for employees in all sectors of the workforce will grow as an increasing number of baby boomers retire and exit the labor force. Let’s work together to employ the gifts and skills that people with disabilities possess so employers build the diverse workforce they need to meet their organizations’ needs. As a state leadership committee on employment and disability in Minnesota puts it, “We need everyone in the workforce for businesses to thrive and communities, families and individuals to prosper.”
Don Lavin is executive director of The Arc Minnesota.
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