We are very excited to have Governor Tom Ridge with us for our luncheon on Monday to celebrate Disability Employment Month! Governor ridge serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Organization for Disabilities (NOD) and is a committed advocate for employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
It was 38 years ago that Governor Ridge, a member of the House representing the 21st District, served on a panel at Erie Insurance Exchange on employment of persons with disabilities. So what have we accomplished during those years?
Our Supported Employment program assists adults in locating and interviewing for jobs and provides coaches to teach adults the responsibilities of the new position. This service is free of charge for employers, who can be assured that adults they hire will be trained to do the job to their satisfaction.
Across the Erie community, scores of businesses have opened their doors to hiring people with disabilities. Over the last several years, the Barber National Institute has placed more than 500 adults with disabilities in jobs with local employers, including food service, housekeeping, light manufacturing, retail and other industries.
Currently, 50 local businesses employ adults with intellectual disabilities who have been trained through our supported employment program.
So what do we see as goals for the future?
The employment rate of persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania between the ages of 21-64 is at 37%. We would like that number to continue to rise.
As a community, I encourage everyone to embrace the belief that people with developmental disabilities and autism bring added value to our jobs. They create diversity in the workplace, which increases workplace morale. They are also typically prompt, work until the job is complete, are not searching for alternative employment, and are dedicated to doing a thorough job.
Most recently, Governor Ridge led the charge to launch Look Closer, a national awareness campaign by NOD to encourage hiring managers to consider employing more persons with disabilities, as they are a diverse, highly capable, and largely untapped talent pool.
On a personal note, upon graduation, Ryan began working at Bello’s Market with the support of a job coach. He does a multiple of maintenance tasks including stocking shelves, replacing pops, garbage and the usual housekeeping tasks a market requires. Ryan loves his job. He has never missed a day unless we are out of town. I am grateful to the Bello Family for their willingness to hire Ryan and he just received an award for completing five years! Way to go Ryan!
I am looking forward to Governor Ridge’s perspective as we move into 2020. Reservations are still being accepted for the Luncheon. To reserve a seat, you can register online at BarberInstitute.org/luncheon or call 814-480-6810.