Governor wants more disabled workers

KIMT News 3 – Before the turn of the century, more than ten percent of Minnesota’s workforce was made up of people with disabilities. Now, it is barely three percent.

Governor Mark Dayton issued an Executive Order directing state agencies to increase employment of people facing challenges with disabilities.

That has local organizations excited.

“Increasing employment for people with disabilities is good for them, and it’s good for all of us. It gives them a chance to increase their skills, to show the skills that they do have,” said Jo Lowe, Director of Programs at the Arc of Freeborn County.

Lowe and the rest of the staff at Arc work with the future workforce every day. They say one of the skills they have is; pride.

“They’re compassionate about what they do. They want to improve themselves, they want to give back, and just like the rest of us, they want to learn and grow. To have that power to know that you earned a wage, and you helped yourself,” Lowe said.

The local organizations that work with the disabled, say getting them to work is not the problem. The problem is getting them to take a day off.

“They love coming to work. They don’t want to miss a day of work. Usually, they have vacation time accrued, and we tell them, you need to take some days off, and they say no, we can’t take days off. That’s just a real positive,” said Jerianne Hendricks, Program Manager at the Owatonna Cedar Valley Services (CVS).

The problem for the disabled in the workforce; is the economy.

CVS Owatonna Division Director, Dave Williams said as the economic downturn took place, a lack of jobs for the disabled came with it.

“During the depths of the recession, 2009, 10, and 11, holy smokes, it was pretty dismal trying to find work for people. We’re seeing a real turnaround at this time,” Williams said.

The local organizations say that is great news for our area.

“It’s a chance to have more inclusion in our community, to learn from each other and for those with disabilities to earn a living wage, like their peers without disabilities,” Lowe said.

Those with CVS say they have seen a big increase in job opportunities the last several months, specifically the ability to secure full-time work instead of part time.

They say the governor’s decision should only help.

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