Hiring hesitation is a problem young leaders can solve

Is there a lack of talent with disabilities or is there a lack of people who understand how to work with us? My guess, as a dyslexic and ADHD sufferer, is the last one, but over the past year acceptance has accelerated. Confident entrepreneurs, training programs and a new generation of skilled workers— 26% of adults looking for a job, are gradually changing the employment landscape. The work is hardly finished.

To convince the suspicious, I will say it another way. There are 33 million working-age people with disabilities in the United States and 75% of them want and can work, but don’t have a job, according to the National Organization for Disability.

Now for the good news.

For several months, I followed a diverse group of talented people with disabilities, hoping to see the bright side. The objective was to begin to paint a realistic portrait of the 20% of people with disabilities who are lucky enough to have a job. What are they doing well and that is helping them in their career path? I hope their stories demystify disabilities and help make statistics more human.

Open Doors Entrepreneurs

Creators and start-ups, inherently more agile than larger or more traditional employers, find a large repository of workers in the disability community. Coming out of a food business incubator program Hosted at Stony Brook University, Petra Pasquina, founder and CEO of Chewma, a company that makes gluten-free protein bites, says her interest in hiring led her to work with a job search program nearby nonprofit for autistic job seekers. Pasquina invited several job applicants to try their hand at cooking. All were enthusiastic bakers and had access to a coach to help with any work-related issues that might arise.

I waited a few months before coming back with her. His experience has been positive. The Chewma team, as Pasquina calls them, quickly established mutual trust and cooking expertise. Pasquina trained each person in the detailed work of measuring ingredients, spreading out the dough, and baking the bites for the perfect crunch. By alternating work tasks in the kitchen, Pasquina and a coach discovered where each person felt most agile (or not). The use of a slab roller originally designed for potters was the archenemy of many workers. (“I hate the machine and the machine hates me,” a baker told Pasquina.) A few months later, his new bakers are up and running and working independently without the coach. It’s a process, Pasquina says, as training anyone in this kind of detailed work could be, ”she said. “We all had to get involved. The extra time I have now outside of the kitchen has been invaluable. Finding business incubators is one way to help both disabled job seekers and businesses that can get started with a full understanding of their clients’ needs.

Find a Workplace Advisor

Post-pandemic, an informed conversation in person or through Zoom, remains one of the best ways to connect with future employees who identify as disabled. In schools across the country, career services departments and institutions such as the Starkloff Disability Institute in St. Louis have become portals of opportunity. The goal is for businesses and the community to recruit, prepare and welcome new graduates from their ranks and for applicants to be exposed to a variety of jobs.

During a recent Starkloff Disability Institute panel organized for students interested in communications, several speakers emphasized the need to hire unusual people and assume that your career path will not be linear. Because you might have been told that you weren’t the right culture or that you seemed nervous during interviews shouldn’t stop you from persisting. Be yourself and practice interviewing as much as possible. Follow your passion because once you start talking about it your nerves will fade, I often advise people.

Starkloff is a local organization. Nationally, job seekers and employers can find resources from emerging advocacy organizations made up of activists in their 20s, 30s and 40s. (But make no mistake, other advocates existed long before the idea of ​​inclusive hiring even sparked in your boss’ eyes.)

Share what professional success looks like

Unfortunately, there are fewer people in organizations willing to embrace their own disability and speak out at work. They fear being intimidated or fired or adding to the post-pandemic stress that already exists at work.

Not everyone needs to be afraid to speak up. If we working and successful people with disabilities do not speak openly about our experiences, efforts to help young job seekers will fail. Please raise your hand to talk about how you got your job, how you are doing it, and how you plan to continue to thrive. Show your talent. If more Americans with disabilities who have jobs don’t move the conversation forward, the number of unemployed won’t budge. Communicate outside of your regular workplace if you don’t feel comfortable talking about yourself at work. Your stories should be heard, not only on TikTok, but also in professional settings, such as job boards and at career events. There is a way to relay issues that often go unaccounted for, like constantly getting lost on the way to work because you don’t have an internal GPS or having to use a riser for the toilet, in social media groups. But there is also a way to convey how professionals do an amazing job and make a living doing it. It shouldn’t be that rare in companies.

Embrace options remotely

Americans are at a promising stage in disability awareness, but change still seems to be in its infancy. What makes the difference? “Being surrounded by more people with disabilities on a daily basis, especially at school, has shown this generation that this is a knowledgeable, confident and independent group,” says Mizrahi. Older generations who went to school before the Americans with Disabilities Act and IDEA did not have the opportunity to have talented students with disabilities in their classrooms. For most of their lives, people with disabilities over 50 have not been part of the mainstream workforce. Graduates in their 20s and 30s expect more opportunities and open a new path, experts at BroadFutures. As part of National Disability Awareness Month, DC-based BroadFutures is sharing feedback from its business partners. “Our interns have made a significant contribution to our work. We look forward to partnering with them again whenever they have someone interested in foreign policy, ”said a spokesperson for the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The internships are as varied as the interests of the candidates. Ellie from Catonsville, Maryland interned at National Association of People Supporting Employment First. These interns work in the public policy organization that promotes workplace equity for people with disabilities. “I love my colleagues at APSE,” says Ellie, “and I feel like this is a stepping stone to really making a difference in the lives of others. ”

Physical barriers shouldn’t prevent people from finding jobs, says Hawken Miller, who has multiple sclerosis and wrote about how working from home using technology is a relief and a struggle. “For people with physical disabilities, that means they have the keyboards, monitors, and even the toilet seats they need to make their day comfortable, without having to ask for them,” Miller said.

Neurodiverse job seekers may also feel more comfortable working remotely because they can better control noise, when they’re taking breaks, and where they’re doing their jobs – small things can affect productivity, Miller says, who writes remotely for the Washington Post and covers the gaming world. Still, he would prefer to go to the office like he did when he started his job at the post office. “I miss the camaraderie even though it’s hard to get there,” he said.

Watch the human resources restart

HR departments, aware of these issues, are reinventing their recruitment strategies, which before the pandemic seemed like a long way for people with disabilities. According to Paycom, a talent acquisition provider, 85% of HR departments are realigning their organizations to solve new issues such as workforce shortages. This is huge, because a single system will not work for hiring. Industry experts say the goal of the changes is greater agility and the use of new technologies. Another problematic bias is the alienating or vague language some recruiters use in job descriptions. A job description for an office job asking if I can hold a 10 pound box over my head makes me wonder who writes this stuff, said a job seeker I have talked about and who didn’t want to use his name.

Compliance is here to stay

Few can tame the monster of conformity. But you can get around it. Newcomers become adept at doing it. Inclusive is a professional network that reignites the way “applicants with disabilities, mental health conditions and chronic illnesses find jobs and connect with inclusive employers”. according to their website. It basically allows job seekers to enter their skills and place of work any help they might need into a database and to search for employers committed to creating workplaces suitable and suitable for people with disabilities. There are already around 20,000 in their database, explains Sarah Bernard, the company’s COO. For employers, “we provide structure and uniformity around the arrangements. Currently, organizations look at workplace accommodations from a compliance perspective, but I think the value extends far beyond this use case, says Bernard. “These employers are reaping the proven benefits of hiring a more diverse workforce.”

Will the United States see significant growth in hiring of people with disabilities this year? It is doubtful. But we are on the right track. Another message is circulating, both optimistic and realistic. They know what they need and are now in the midst of a decisive campaign to get employers to understand this.


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