The Key to Closing the Unemployment Gap of Disabled Floridians? Target Their Abilities to Your Business Needs.

 

Authored by: Bruce Hagan, RAI Investments

 

Learn More About the Internship Program See What Other Leaders Have Said

 

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.

Kafi Charles-King: “Everyone should be given an opportunity to fulfill their career dreams and aspirations”

 

Hire an Intern   Host a Seminar

 

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent unemployment report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 65. Of the 1.13 million, 700,000 people with disabilities are not currently in Florida’s workforce.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program seeks to help close the talent gap by connecting businesses with workforce needs to valuable talent.

My Nature’s Delight is one of the 10 businesses who were selected to take part in this pilot program.

“Being a part of this program is important to My Nature’s Delight because it allows us to help with the unemployment gap when it comes to workers with disabilities, but most importantly- it’s allowing workers with disabilities an opportunity to work and show off their special gifts and talents,” said KAFI CHARLES-KING, My Nature’s Delight. “We believe that everyone should be given an opportunity to fulfill their career dreams and aspirations and because of this, we are extremely grateful and proud to be part of the pilot year of the foundation.”

Hope Allen: “Those with disabilities don’t have to be unemployed- they are absolutely employable.”

 

Hire an Intern   Host a Seminar

 

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent unemployment report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 65. Of the 1.13 million, 700,000 people with disabilities are not currently in Florida’s workforce.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program seeks to help close the talent gap by connecting businesses with workforce needs to valuable talent.

After hearing a presentation of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s internship Program, the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce stepped up to the plate to help close the workforce gap. The key? Conversations.

“It’s all in conversations and not being afraid to have the conversations,” said HOPE ALLEN, President & CEO, Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. “Persons with disabilities are just like everybody else within your organization- don’t be afraid of it. So it’s spreading the message and having ambassadors and goodwill and I think that’s what the Florida Chamber is doing really well.”

Karen Pieters: “If you can broaden the vision of what you are looking for and who can be a great employee for you- that helps everyone.”

 

Hire an Intern   Host a Seminar

 

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent unemployment report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 65. Of the 1.13 million, 700,000 people with disabilities are not currently in Florida’s workforce.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program seeks to help close the talent gap by connecting businesses with workforce needs to valuable talent.

Crystal River Main Street is one of the 10 businesses who were selected to take part in this pilot program.

“The internship program worked out absolutely phenomenally for us,” said KAREN PIETERS, CEO, Crystal River Main Street. “Being that we are a nonprofit, and being able to be reimbursed for the salary made a huge difference in our ability to do that.”

For businesses looking to meet workforce needs, Pieters recommends widening the scope of where you look for talent.

“It’s an entire segment of the population that actually has abilities, and can be employed, and is perhaps overlooked that winds up having to be on assistance and then therefore, are not able to be your customers and are not able to participate in the economy when they actually have the ability to do so, said PIETERS.”

Christina Davenport: “It goes back to education and getting the word out.”

 

Hire an Intern   Host a Seminar

 

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent unemployment report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 65. Of the 1.13 million, 700,000 people with disabilities are not currently in Florida’s workforce.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program seeks to help close the talent gap by connecting businesses with workforce needs to valuable talent.

JMI Professional Services is one of the 10 businesses who were selected to take part in this pilot program.

“I think the business community has a need for these individuals with disabilities that are out there and they don’t realize, in my opinion, that they are available to work,” said CHRISTINA DAVENPORT, President, JMI Professional Services Inc. “It goes back to educating and letting those that are out there and have employment needs to let them know that there is another skilled group of individuals that are ready to work.”

Bruce Hagan Discusses How Businesses Participating in the Foundation’s Internship Program Can Help Close the Workforce Gap

 

“We are both going to walk away from this with tangible, accountable results.”

 – Bruce Hagan, RAI Investments

 

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent unemployment report, there are more than 1.13 million Floridians with disabilities between the ages of 16 and 65. Of the 1.13 million, 700,000 people with disabilities are not currently in Florida’s workforce.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Internship Program seeks to help close the talent gap by connecting businesses with workforce needs to valuable talent.

RAI Investments is one of the 10 businesses who were selected to take part in this pilot program. According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s data, unemployment rate for persons with disabilities in each of Florida’s counties are nearly three times higher than overall unemployment rate. Why does this matter to the business community?

“I think it matters because we need to reduce the number of people who are dependent on government and taxpayers,” said BRUCE HAGAN, RAI Investments. “We need to make them employable and create more taxpayers- let them become taxpayers themselves.”

Businesses can help close the workforce gap by getting involved, getting informed and doing what they do best- matching skills to job needs.

“I think you need to match the skill set to the potential employee, and of course we are always doing that,” said HAGAN. “You might not want someone who is confined to a wheel chair unloading and stacking warehouse inventory- but that person might be ideally suited to run your IT programs, including your inventory software. I think employers need to understand that generally, people who have a disability who are given this opportunity are going to really work hard and do all they can but, their differences are not that great from the other 320 million of us out there.”

 

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 .

Testimonials on Finding Employment With a Disability: Derek Carraway

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

Click here to learn more about our internship program. To create an internship at your business or to learn more about our efforts, please contact Whitney Harris at (850) 521-1237.