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Column: Hiring people with disabilities makes business sense

Kris Gimberlin gains retail experience with his job at T.J. Maxx. (Submitted photo)

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Goodwill is calling on local employers to join us in making a commitment to hiring qualified people with disabilities.

At Goodwill Duluth, we know firsthand the benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce and believe that all people, including those with disabilities, deserve to be integrated into the workforce to make our economy stronger.

Goodwill currently works with more than 50 community employment partners around the Twin Ports that provide jobs and invaluable work experience for the people we serve. T.J. Maxx is just one of our longtime current partners. The department store sometimes makes direct hires from Goodwill's work programs, or sometimes simply gives them a chance to work in a retail environment.

Whatever the arrangement, working with Goodwill is a beneficial, rewarding relationship both for the business and for the worker.

"It's always been very positive and fulfilling giving someone the opportunity to gain experience," said T.J. Maxx manager Paul Roseth. After initial training, Roseth said, most of the people that he's worked with through Goodwill have successfully become a part of the workplace and are able to work independently.

"We get a dedicated associate who is valued and appreciated for the job that they're doing," Roseth said.

It's important that local businesses partner with Goodwill, Roseth said, to prepare a wider population of people for their future careers.

"If they don't get the experience, then they don't have any job skills to take into the workforce," Roseth said.

Benefits to employers go beyond the rewarding experience of giving someone a head start on their career: working with people with disabilities also makes good business sense. According to research by the Job Accommodation Network, employers who hired workers with disabilities reported improved employee retention and productivity, and experienced cost savings from reduced turnover.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that employees with disabilities have above-average attendance and job performance, high dependability and flexibility, and strong safety records in the workplace.

Yet this population is a huge untapped resource: Adults with disabilities face a national unemployment rate of 14.1 percent, nearly twice that of people without disabilities.

During fiscal year 2012-13, Goodwill program participants worked a total of 13,395 hours in community

jobs, and this number is projected to grow as Goodwill focuses

more on increasing job placements.

If you'd like to become involved with this program, contact Goodwill job placement specialist Mike Needham at 218-722-6351 or mneedham@ goodwillduluth.org.

Valerie Clark works for Goodwill Duluth.

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