October is my favorite time of the year with the fall colors, football season and National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of NDEAM is to raise awareness of employment needs and celebrate the many and varied contributions of workers with disabilities. The national theme for 2014 is “Expect, Employ, Empower.” Chosen by the U.S Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the theme reflects the reality that we can expect people with disabilities to have the desire to join the workforce if they are empowered. Disability Awareness is a key tool to break down barriers and create educational awareness of the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.They offer a wide variety of skills and abilities to employers.Talent knows no boundaries. I find it inspirational to examine all of the famous and accomplished leaders that have a disability but have been empowered to achieve great accomplishments through their work. Let's take a look.
Goodwill offers many services to support individuals with disabilities in reaching their full potential. These include Employment Services and Customized Training, which help companies recruit, train, hire and retain qualified job applicants. We serve individuals with all levels of education, age, and experience; ranging from someone just entering the workforce to individuals that have extensive work history or are making a career change. Employment Specialists work closely with individuals to prepare them for work including job readiness and job seeking skills. Many receive on the job training at our various Goodwill business operations to better prepare them for external employment. Employment Specialists work to match a candidate‘s skills and interests with the needs and expectations of an employer and the specific job qualifications.
One shining example of our customized training is our partnership in the REDI Initiative (Retail Employees with Disability Initiative), created by Walgreens and in collaboration with the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Walgreens sees the value of employing individuals with disabilities and recognizes its necessity for the future to remain competitive in the marketplace by growing talent and recognizing ability. Since 2012, Goodwill has been fortunate to work with 10 Walgreens stores, training 65 externs, and helping 50 individuals secure employment.
We all have a role to play in supporting individuals with disabilities, and I urge all employers to consider the many benefits of hiring skilled workers with disabilities, including returning veterans. Watch the video below to view just a few of the inspirational stories, such as Elva, from the REDI Initiative.
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Written by Laura Romens
Laura Romens is the Program Manager-Government Programs with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree from UW-Milwaukee with 24 years’ experience in the field of rehabilitation. Over the years she has worked as a job coach, employment specialist, intake coordinator, and manager of various training and employment programs providing training for individuals with disabilities and barriers to employment to return to the workforce. She works closely with government funding sources in Rehabilitation to partner on new initiatives such as the Walgreens REDI Program to help individuals with disabilities achieve successful outcomes. Laura is active volunteer in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and youth sports.