Disability Employment Awareness Month: Closing Florida’s Workforce Gap
Today, I was proud to stand with other disability employment leaders from around our state as the Florida Cabinet signed a resolution, sponsored by Attorney General Pam Bondi, designating October as Disability Employment Awareness Month. The Florida Chamber Foundation has long been a champion of closing the workforce gap for Floridians with disabilities. The bottom line is, Florida businesses require the right talent. And in Florida, the 700,000 Floridians with disabilities who are not in the workforce are an untapped source of talent.
It’s the reason why we launched a pilot program with The Able Trust last year, to help pair interns with businesses that needed their skills. To date, more than 10 businesses around the state have shared their stories of hiring an intern, which you can find at www.FloridaChamber.com/InternshipMediaSeries.
These stories include many like Rebecca’s, who I had the honor of standing with at today’s Cabinet meeting and who has been employed by Walmart for more than 11 years. Her words, “having a job truly makes a difference in a person’s life”, are ones that resonate with me and all business leaders in Florida.
Special thank you to those who invited us to stand with them:
- Robert Doyle, Division of Blind Services
- Allison Flanagan, Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
- Barbara Palmer, Agency for Persons with Disabilities
- Cissy Proctor, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
- Mary Smith, Family Care Council
- Glenn Sutphin, Veterans Affairs
The Key to Closing the Unemployment Gap of Disabled Floridians? Target Their Abilities to Your Business Needs.
Authored by: Bruce Hagan, RAI Investments
Did you know that the unemployment rate for Floridians with disabilities is three times Florida’s unemployment rate? RAI Investments took on the challenge of closing this talent gap and in my discussions with business leaders, they all ask me one thing: “If I hire someone who has a disability, how will they do the work?”
Hiring someone with a disability can seem overwhelming, but my advice to businesses is simple: hire the way you always do and match abilities to your needs. For instance, you might not want someone who uses a wheel chair unloading and stacking warehouse inventory- but that person might be ideally suited to run your IT programs, including your inventory software.
RAI Investments was one of 10 businesses selected to participate in the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program, a pilot program with The Able Trust that serves as a resource for businesses looking to find a qualified employee with a disability through internships.
We’ve learned a lot through the process and have found in this program an incredible intern that taught us ways of enhancing how we do business. People who have a disability who are given an opportunity to come into your business are going to really work hard and, at the end of the day, their differences are not that great from the other 320 million of us out there.
If your business is interested in getting involved with the Florida Chamber Foundation, visit www.FloridaChamber.com/InternshipProgram for more information.
Bruce Hagan CFP is the President and CEO of RAI Investments, a Tallahassee-based business that provides financial planning services to clients. Their intern assisted in marketing efforts and more.
Todd Thomson Discusses Internship Program for Individuals with Disabilities
“We studied the Florida 2030 projections and know the challenges that our region faces in filling [the 6,000 new jobs Escambia County needs by 2030] and we absolutely believe that this type of internship program would be beneficial to our members. With the number of jobs that need to be filled, we need to find all sorts of candidates, and this type of internship program would be very important in trying to find those that are looking to fill these jobs,” said TODD THOMSON, Greater Pensacola Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs
The latest data available indicates an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent among Floridians with disabilities, nearly three times Florida’s overall unemployment rate. Smaller counties in Florida are not exempt from the problem either. Escambia County’s overall unemployment rate is holding at the same 6.3 percent as the state as a whole, but the county’s unemployment rate for disabled individuals is nearing the state average at an estimated 14.6 percent.
Todd Thomson, Vice President of Public Affairs at the Greater Escambia Chamber of Commerce, said his Chamber is looking to internship programs targeted at disabled job-seekers to help put a dent in those numbers and help the broader Escambia business community too.
“I think it’s an issue that’s not just important to our chamber, but I believe it’s an issue that’s important to the entire business community,” Thomson said. “That makes it even more important for us to provide opportunities for individuals who are looking for work and to educate businesses about these opportunities this [internship program] provides, and to try to bring that 14.6 unemployment rate down.”
Getting quantifiable results are important when determining the efficacy of the internship program, Thomson said, and direct feedback from participating businesses and organizations is perhaps the best way to tell how well the program is working.
“Surveys are one way we can measure the success…getting feedback from our partners and the other stakeholders who are involved with this process,” he said. “I think it’s just getting that data and feedback from the community to make sure we’re doing the right thing and making sure that these programs are successful.”
The Greater Pensacola Chamber has supported the Florida Chamber since 1936 and remains one of the Florida Chamber’s staunchest advocates in the Panhandle. Though Thomson is not a Florida Chamber board member, he and the rest of the Greater Pensacola Chamber have been an instrumental part of assisting the Florida Chamber’s efforts to fix the workers’ compensation issue facing state lawmakers in the upcoming Legislative Session. He said taking on workers’ comp-related problems is crucial for Escambia County and Florida as a whole.
“We’re looking at a number of important issues for the business community over here for 2017,” Thomson said. “First and foremost we’re focused on the workers compensation issue that they’ll be addressing in Tallahassee. This issue has a bottom-line impact on our local businesses and hopefully something can be done on the legislative level to fix that.
We’ll also be focusing locally on our…governments to make sure we have a good playing field for our businesses here. We feel pretty good about the way things are going here in Escambia County but we want to make sure that continues.”
Internship Program Graduates First Internship
The Florida Chamber Foundation has developed a program that matches businesses with qualified individuals with disabilities to be placed in internships. We are please to have this program’s first intern graduate, Alan. Alan interned with Christina Pilkington, Director of Administration, for the Kissimmee / Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, where he helped with administrative tasks that supported different departments including sales and special events.
“Alan’s work was greatly appreciated by the staff of the Kissimmee Chamber,” said PILKINGTON. “We appreciate the efforts of the Florida Chamber regarding this program, and, from our perspective, we believe it was a success.”
LISTEN to John Newstreet, President and CEO of the Kissimmee / Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, discuss why his chamber chose to participate in the Florida Chamber Foundation Internship Program.
Two more internships have been created by Crystal River Main Street in Citrus County, and My Nature’s Delight in Polk County. The Florida Chamber Foundation Internship Program is provided by a grant from The Able Trust. LEARN MORE about the program.
If your business is interested in creating an internship, contact Whitney Harris at .
John Newstreet Discusses Importance of Employing Floridians with Disabilities
“Every job has a different skillset and requirement and everybody
has different abilities…. We’re all able and we all have something to contribute.”
– JOHN NEWSTREET
President & CEO of Kissimmee / Osceola County Chamber of Commerce
According to research from the Florida Chamber Foundation, there are nearly 700,000 Floridians with disabilities that are not employed and may want to be part of Florida’s workforce. In response to this large untapped workforce population, the Florida Chamber Foundation and The Able Trust have developed an internship program to help match businesses with qualified individuals with disabilities.
On the Florida Chamber’s recent Series on Free Enterprise, John Newstreet, President & CEO, Kissimmee / Osceola Chamber of Commerce, discussed why his organization elected to participate in the pilot year of the internship program.
“The talent pipeline is important to the future of the community, so a program like this is going to help us find the special talent to help us achieve our goals and the things we most want to accomplish,” said Newstreet.
Research from TheFloridaScorecard.org shows 70,000 more jobs will be needed in Osceola County by 2030, making it even more important for the county to develop a workforce that can meet the needs of future businesses.
“A talent pipeline is needed on all levels,” said Newstreet. “Every job has a different skillset and requirement and everybody has different abilities. We want those folks working here and we want to make sure we have that talent filling the open jobs here. We’re all able and we all have something to contribute.”
Through partnering with organizations like the Kissimmee Chamber, the business community can help close the gap on the unemployment rate of Floridians with disabilities. And while the internship program is relatively new, success can be measured from both the employer’s perspective and from the intern’s.
“From the employer standpoint, it’s great to have a little help when accomplishing tasks and getting things done,” said Newstreet. “From the intern’s perspective, I really hope we give them exposure to different elements of the community and what businesses do, whether it be accounting or marketing or HR. It’s not just ‘come on in and file papers’, it’s come on in and learn the business and learn the community and grow from that.”
If you are a business and would like to hire an intern through the Floridians with Disabilities internship program, please visit www.FloridaChamber.com/Internship.
2016 Future of Florida Forum: Employing Persons With Disabilities, Whitney Harris
Testimonials on Finding Employment With a Disability: Derek Carraway
Testimonials on Finding Employment With a Disability: Sarah Goldman
Help Better Understand the Internship Process with The Able Trust’s Employer Internship Guide
In looking at the issues that impact Florida’s current workforce, the Florida Chamber Foundation and The Able Trust have developed an internship program to help businesses access this talent pool. Research has also shown that companies who offer internships to people with disabilities are more likely to overcome misconceptions associated with disabilities and hire within this population when filling future jobs. Matching talented interns with businesses throughout Florida will help meet the long-term goal of closing the gap on the unemployment rate of Floridians with disabilities.
ADA Anniversary Reminds Us Florida Can and Should Do More to Employ All Floridians
On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation and more. While our nation has made great strides to ensure persons with disabilities are able to enter the workforce, Florida can and should do more to to employ all Floridians.
Research from the Florida Chamber Foundation shows there are more than 700,000 Floridians with disabilities are not in the workforce. This report, Quantifying the Unemployment Rate for Workers with Disabilities in Florida, analyzes the working-age population in Florida and quantifies the unemployment rate by county for Florida’s potential workforce with disabilities, using the latest data available.
As Florida businesses work to meet growing needs for workforce, both those Floridians with disabilities who are currently unemployed, as well as those who are not currently in the workforce can be potential employees for Florida companies.
To help in this arena, the Florida Chamber Foundation and The Able Trust have developed an internship program to help businesses access this talent pool. Research has also shown that companies who offer internships to people with disabilities are more likely to overcome misconceptions associated with disabilities and hire within this population when filling future jobs. Matching talented interns with businesses throughout Florida will help meet the long-term goal of closing the gap on the unemployment rate of Floridians with disabilities.
You Can Help
Whitney Harris Discusses New Internship Program for Floridians With Disabilities
June 27, 2016
The Florida Chamber Foundation, through a partnership with The Able Trust, recently launched an internship program for Floridians with disabilities. Through this internship program, business will be able to hire a person with a disability and at the end of the internship, the Florida Chamber Foundation will reimburse them the full cost of that intern.
Earlier this year, Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry D. Parrish provided an independent analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey to develop the first-of-its-kind Florida Scorecard research, Quantifying the Unemployment Rate for Workers with Disabilities in Florida. According to the report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between 16 and 65.
“We found that there are more than 700,000 people with disabilities that aren’t even included in the workforce and that their unemployment rate was three times that of everybody else’s at 18.1 percent, said WHITNEY HARRIS. “People with disabilities are a large untapped workforce. In order to create a more diverse group of workers for our state, we need to tap into every component that Florida has to offer.”
Contact Whitney Harris at 850-521-1237 if you are interested in taking part in the Florida Chamber’s internship program.
More Than 700,000 Floridians with Disabilities Not in the Workforce
Florida Chamber Encourages Meaningful Employment Opportunities for the Disabled and Launches Unique Abilities Internship Program
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (January 6, 2016) – New research released today by the Florida Chamber Foundation shows a disproportionately high unemployment rate among Floridians with disabilities. As part of the Chamber Foundation’s Florida Scorecard Research Project, this first-of-its-kind research shows more than 700,000 individuals with disabilities are not in Florida’s workforce.
Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry D. Parrish provided an independent analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey to develop the research results and estimates. According to the report, entitled Quantifying the Unemployment Rate for Workers with Disabilities in Florida, there are:
- More than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between 16 and 65, and
- Of those, 62.9 percent or more than 700,000 are currently not employed and may want to be part of Florida’s workforce.
The results of the report show that not only is the unemployment rate for Floridians with unique abilities substantially higher than the overall unemployment rate, but also the variability of the rates across counties is extremely high. While the annual average unemployment rate for 2014 was 6.3 percent, the unemployment rate for Floridians with disabilities in the 40 most-populated counties was 18.1 percent.
According to Dr. Susanne Homant, President and CEO of The Able Trust, this groundbreaking data has been a missing piece of important information in measuring progress among Floridians with disabilities.
“Part of the successful growth of Florida’s economy is access to all the talent in Florida and in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce,” Dr. Homant said. “The Chamber Foundation Scorecard Research Project will provide employment data and measure success.”
As a result of the significant disparity in the unemployment rate of persons with disabilities, the Florida Chamber Foundation is taking action by working with partners, including The Able Trust and local Chambers, to launch an internship program that assists Floridians with disabilities in finding meaningful employment opportunities.
“The Florida Chamber wants to do its part to encourage businesses across Florida to create job opportunities for individuals with unique abilities, and we’re pleased to help jumpstart this movement by partnering on the unique abilities internship program,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber Foundation.
The research provided for this report is the first in a series of reports conducted for the Florida Scorecard in an ongoing effort to provide metrics that track Florida’s progress and prepare the state for a more competitive future. The data provided in this report will offer Florida policymakers a new tool to help quantify the amount of progress Florida makes over the next several years in utilizing Floridians with disabilities in our workforce.
“With an additional six million more residents expected by 2030 and two million more jobs to fill, it will be critical to help every Floridian that wants to work find a job,” said Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation.
This research was funded in part by a grant from The Able Trust.
The Florida Chamber Foundation is the business-led, solutions development and research organization working in partnership with state business leaders to secure Florida’s future. The Foundation’s “Six Pillars” serve as a visioning platform for developing the first-ever, long-term strategic plan for the state. The Foundation’s work focuses on: 1) Talent Supply and Education, 2) Innovation and Economic Development, 3) Infrastructure and Growth Leadership, 4) Business Climate and Competitiveness, 5) Civic and Governance Systems, and 6) Quality of Life and Quality Places. Founded in 1968, the Foundation is a crucial voice for improving the state’s pro-business climate to enable Florida to grow and prosper. Visit www.FLFoundation.org for more information.
Employing People With All Abilities
Building a competitive business climate in our state requires fostering a diverse talent pool for businesses to choose from. Each industry has a need, just as each Floridian does. Yet, as we continue to focus on getting Floridians back to work, there is a large population that often gets overlooked. In 2013, the unemployment rate for people with a disability was 13.2 percent, compared with a 7.1 percent unemployment rate for people with no disability. This important group of prospective employees represents a large untapped pool of skills and talent in the U.S.
Successful businesses recognize that a diverse staff positively impacts their company. A report by the National Governor’s Association states that businesses report positive outcomes from employing people with disabilities. These benefits include increased productivity and above average performance and quality of work.
In addition, as our state’s population ages, the number of people in the workforce aged 18-64 will shrink, requiring those who remain in Florida’s talent pool to be ready to meet the needs of businesses. Broadening the scope from which employees are hired can provide greater diversity as well as access to the necessary skills and experience.
So what can Florida businesses do to fill the gap between unemployed Floridians and business need?
To help make the transition from unemployed to employed, people with disabilities benefit from programs such as internships, on-the-job coaching and job skills-training. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN®) have developed a report highlighting businesses that excel at creating a more inclusive workplace, including leading companies such as Florida Blue, Wells Fargo and Northrop Grumman. Many of the companies outlined in the report have created programs that not only help their bottom line, but give many Floridians and their families’ opportunities that, without the private sector, would not be readily available.
In Florida, the Able Trust has developed an internship program to help businesses properly structure internships in their operations, for all temporary and seasonal jobs, and for employees with or without disabilities. The seminars, which will be hosted around the state, are free and include a comprehensive tool kit to assist businesses in properly structuring temporary work experiences in their operations.
“In today’s competitive economy, a company’s workforce must mirror the marketplace in order to understand the changing needs for goods and services,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, President & CEO, The Able Trust. “The internship program the Able Trust has developed and is providing free of charge to Florida’s businesses, is designed to help employers provide work experiences that train potential employees and assist employers in accessing needed talent from the workforce made up of people with disabilities, at no risk to those businesses.”
For a list of upcoming programs or to find ways to find out more about hiring persons with disabilities, visit the Able Trust Internship Program event registration page or call 850-224-4493.
Want to Take Part in Securing Florida’s Future?
The Florida Chamber Foundation is currently recruiting the brightest minds from industry across the state to help us secure Florida’s future. If you would like to Join the Florida Chamber Foundation Board or Trustees or want to help prepare the Cornerstone 2030 report, contact Tony Carvajal today.
About the Florida Scorecard Did You Know:
The Florida Scorecard, located at www.TheFloridaScorecard.com, presents metrics across Florida’s economy. Each week, the Florida Chamber Foundation produces a Scorecard Stat that takes an in-depth look at one specific statistic. If you would like additional information on the Weekly Scorecard Stat or on the Florida Scorecard, please contact Tracey Lowe with the Florida Chamber Foundation at 850.521.1226 or TLowe@FLFoundation.org. You can also follow the Florida Chamber Foundation on Twitter at @FLChamberFDN.