Diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is something that continues to be a hot topic among organizations across the US, and now a new report has revealed positive change is taking place that shows companies are not simply paying lip service to this idea.
The latest National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Jobs Report for December 2016 has highlighted slow but steady improvement in the prospects for job seekers with disabilities across the country at present.
Record growth in employment
Produced by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability, the report paints a positive picture for the hiring of people with disabilities in the current economic climate.
According to the latest data, December saw an uptick in employment for people with disabilities across the country, with annual gains in both the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio.
This first key metric saw a 5.3% year-on-year increase, meaning that roughly 340,000 persons with disabilities joined or rejoined the workforce. This growth far exceeds the rate seen for people without disabilities, which saw a marginal increase of 0.1%.
Meanwhile, a 7.9 percent annual increase in the employment-population ratio was seen for people with disabilities, compared to a lesser rise of 0.4 per cent for people without disabilities.
John O'Neill, director of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation, commented: "These improvements in the employment situation for people with disabilities in 2016 were better than the gains we saw last year. Let's hope that this trend continues and we are able to reach pre-recession employment levels in 2017."
Overall, the data highlights the progress that has been made in advancing the employment prospects of people with disabilities, and the release of seasonally-adjusted data this April will help illustrate how much of this growth is translating into long-term employment.
Rise in innovative programs to support job seekers
One of the key factors highlighted in the support of job seekers with disabilities was the growing number and scope of programs that are now helping to encourage and facilitate this group to enter the workforce.
Many employers are searching for alternative sources of labor and therefore having access to a group of eager and capable individuals that have traditionally faced greater difficulties in securing employment is seen as a real boon.
Indeed, the report highlighted the benefits of one such scheme - the Summer Opportunity for Adult Readiness (SOAR) initiative from Florida Atlantic University - but also noted the growing trend for this type of activity among universities and other organizations keen to help more people with disabilities into work.
SOAR is a 12-week learning and development program aimed at providing the necessary skills to help participants secure employment more easily when leaving college, and preparing them more fully for the challenges they are likely to face when embarking on a new career.
Elaine Katz, senior vice-president of grants and communications at the Kessler Foundation, explained how SOAR and programs like it are, "Helping people overcome obstacles to transitioning to the workplace."
She added that this approach could now act as a blueprint for a wider rollout of such programs in the years ahead.
The attention now being paid to providing increased support for people with disabilities in entering the world of work is therefore a significant factor in helping more of this group to find jobs. It is also a welcome cause for celebration that employers are recognizing the widespread benefits of attracting more people with disabilities into work.
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