People with disabilities make up a valuable, untapped workforce
After years of sustained economic growth, unemployment is now reaching near rock-bottom levels. In Missouri, unemployment is approximately 4 percent. This is something we should celebrate. We want to have abundant jobs and opportunity for workers.
However, we also need to recognize that today’s economic opportunities are not equally shared among all workers. One area of concern is that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double the rate of unemployment among nondisabled workers.
A report this summer from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that while the unemployment rate for nondisabled workers continued to fall in 2016, the rate for disabled people held steady at 10.5 percent. Disabled workers simply are not finding the same access to jobs as everyone else.
Having too few occupational options for disabled people is a problem in our society. But as with many problems, we can find opportunities as we work toward addressing them.
Last month — National Disability Employment Awareness Month — I helped launch a new effort in my region to address this problem. We formed the Mid-Missouri Business Leadership Network in an area covering eight counties, including Boone County, where my business resides.
This new network will bring tools and programs into our region from the United States Business Leadership Network, a national organization that focuses on disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace. This national organization currently has more than 130 corporate partners spanning the technology, health care, financial, transportation, entertainment and retail industries.
Our new mid-Missouri network is one of nearly 50 similar groups now established in regions across the country.
I am excited to start promoting new tools such as the Disability Equality Index, a confidential benchmarking tool that helps businesses understand their strengths and shortcomings in regard to how inclusive they are of people with disabilities. We will also promote a certification program for businesses owned by people with disabilities.
Today, it’s easy to see the opportunity in this endeavor. With such low unemployment, businesses are having to search hard for viable candidates for open positions. Disabled people could provide a valuable, untapped workforce for many of these positions.
However, the real goal here is to help communities and businesses do a better job of
making opportunities accessible to people with disabilities so that the gap between unemployment levels can begin to disappear — no matter what is happening in the economy.
If your business is in mid-Missouri and you want to get involved in our new business leadership network, please let me know. I would also be happy to share my knowledge on this topic with anyone in another part of the state who would like to set up a similar group in their community.
Let’s work together and make Missouri a leader in this area.
Kat Cunningham is president of Moresource Inc. Contact Moresource at 573-443-1234.