The recent Association of Persons in Supported Employment (APSE) conference at the downtown Minneapolis Hilton was an opportunity for hundreds of providers, consumers, and advocates to exchange information, raise awareness, and increase the understanding of all parties involved in the laws and the lives of working persons with disabilities. According to www.apse.org “supported employment (SE) focuses on a person’s abilities and provides the supports an individual needs to be successful on a long-term basis.” In this way, “SE enables people with disabilities… to work and contribute to society.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2006 American businesses will experience a shortage of 10 million workers. At the conference, Katherine McCary of Atlanta’s SunTrust Bank, explained why this labor shortage makes hiring people with disabilities a great business decision, as well as the “right thing to do.”
During her 90-minute presentation, McCary stated that besides being a largely underutilized source of competent workers, there are other sound reasons why hiring persons with disabilities makes sense. Research done by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), available at www.worksupport.com, shows that the cost of turnover has been estimated at more than 1.5 times the annual salary of a worker, making retention an essential business strategy.
Employers have reported that hiring workers with disabilities resulted in increased productivity and morale, as well as high retention rates. Furthermore, as the marketplace becomes more global and diverse, employers need to reach out to a diverse population in order to make their organization more representative of their customer base. By doing so, employers will see a return on their investment, and gain an understanding of the marketplace to which they provide products and services.
Therefore, how can an employer in Minnesota become more “disability friendly?” One great place to begin, according to McCary, is to log on to www.usbln.com, the website of the Business Leadership Network (BLN). The BLN is affiliated with the Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Its goal is to prepare workers via education, training, and other opportunities as well as making employers aware of this beneficial workforce.
Minnesota employers wanting more information about the BLN are encouraged to visit www.usbln.com, or call local chapter representative, Terri Ricci of Medtronic. Ricci can be reached at 763-505-2857 or at [email protected].
Jim Czechowicz is a Social Security PASS Specialist in St. Paul, Minnesota.