May 09, 2019.
When it comes to thriving in the Southern California economy, adults with disabilities face steep drawbacks. The Disability Support Services (DSS) Workgroup of the North Orange County Regional Consortium for Adult Education (NOCRC) is working hard to change that—with help from the community.
On May 23, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., NOCRC will host a “Community Conversation: The Untapped Workforce and Promoting Workplace Diversity.” The event invites regional employers and community stakeholders for a conversation about breaking down barriers and expanding job opportunities for people with disabilities.
“Adults with disabilities represent an underutilized resource that can add value to our regional workforce,” says Ivan Stanojkovic, special projects manager for the NOCRC DSS Workgroup. “According to employment labor data, fully capable adults who happen to have a disability are underemployed by a decent margin.”
In California, while the poverty rate among people ages 18 to 64 without disabilities is about 13 percent, the poverty rate for those with disabilities is about 26 percent. Similarly, the average annual earnings for people with disabilities is between $20,793 and $22,656, about $10,000 less compared to the salaries of those without disabilities. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for this quite capable group stood at 8 percent in 2018, more than double the rate for everyone else.
The NOCRC DSS Workgroup is committed to developing and implementing programs and services to address the needs of regional adults with disabilities. While many of these services focus on supporting them as they strive to achieve independence, this community conversation event takes their efforts one step further by addressing workforce needs of employers and the benefits of increasing workplace diversity.
Helping employers understand the unique characteristics of the broad category of “people with disabilities” is part of DSS’s mission and one focus of the breakfast. Another is helping employers see that adults with disabilities are a workforce asset.
Adults with disabilities often excel in areas where others do not. One such job is computer numerically controlled (CNC) tool operator, because it requires extreme focus and is suited for someone who is highly detail orientated and enjoys tasks that have repetitive components. Someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, for example, may thrive at this job and be the best-qualified candidate for a CNC career, which commands a starting salary of almost $40,000 per year in California.
As Stanojkovic points out, “These adults desire what everyone wants—to feel valued, to support themselves, and to enjoy not just jobs, but careers.” He also mentions the great benefits of hiring people with disabilities. According to i4cp’s recent study, adult workers with disabilities are more likely to be dependable, motivated, and punctual employees, which encourages less turnover and increases stability. In addition, employers can receive tax incentives and additional resources to support employees with disabilities. “We want to connect adults who desire to have a meaningful job to employers who need qualified candidates. This provides a mutually beneficial relationship for many reasons,” says Stanojkovic.
But despite this potential for success, Stanojkovic acknowledges that for people with disabilities to succeed in the workforce, they have to first get through the door.
That’s why the main focus of this breakfast is “community conversation.” In addition to answering common questions, the event will engage employers and community stakeholders in order to better understand their employment needs, while identifying roles that people with disabilities can play within the regional workforce.
“This event allows us to engage local employers and hiring managers in honest conversations about expanding workplace diversity and jobs,” says Stanojkovic. “We want to share the benefits of hiring our students, but in addition, we want to hear from employers. What are attributes that you really want when it comes to your employees? What are the most important skill sets that you value when interviewing and hiring? These are the conversations that we want to talk about at our event, bridging the employment gap for our students, and then incorporating into our future job skills classes.”