Traverse City Business News | Job Club: Creating autonomy in the employment of people with disabilities

Job Club: Creating autonomy in the employment of people with disabilities

The soaring cost of living affects people with disabilities as much as others, creating a need to seek additional income.

Despite this need, people with disabilities experience higher unemployment rates and face employment barriers that contribute to a significant employment gap for people with disabilities compared to others.

According to the Bureau of Labor, in 2021, 11.9% of all people surveyed had a disability, half were over 65, but only 19.1% of people with disabilities surveyed were employed. The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities seeking employment was twice that of persons without disabilities.

There are many Michigan agencies with work programs to help people with disabilities. However, these agencies are not immune to the staffing shortages that plague all industries in today’s economy, often causing minimal assistance and delays in assisting people with disabilities seeking employment. a job. Disability Network works to close the employment gap for people with disabilities.

People with disabilities are often qualified to fill positions, but face barriers to joining the labor market, from the initial job search phase through the application and hiring process and throughout the period. employment.

Disability Network created a program called Job Club in response to these barriers. Job Club is designed to help people with disabilities who are considering employment or preparing to start a new job. The program is divided into two series that focus on career assessments, accommodations, skills, applications, mock interviews, resumes and cover letters, self-employment and social security benefits planning .

The creation of the Job Club provided an interesting perspective on modern trends in barriers that make it difficult for people with disabilities to obtain employment. One hurdle is relaying work history and relevant experience on job applications and resumes. Job interruptions or late entry into the workforce are common with disability and can be difficult to explain on a resume.

A Job Club participant needed a long break from paid employment to care for her sick mother for many years. Eventually, the time came to re-enter the workforce, but she worried about the 10-year gap in her work history. She joined both sets of Job Club to help her prepare for employment to create a resume and fill out applications by applying her education and experience despite breaking work history.

The Job Club helped her realize that her volunteer work during the break and the direct caregiving duties she took on with her mother were all relevant experiences that good employers would be interested in. Moreover, she ignored her nursing degree obtained more than 20 years ago because she had not worked in the field of nursing. Job Club taught him that it was always appropriate to list it on his resume and applications. Once this person has completed both Job Club segments, they will work with the Disability Network staff to find a job.

Another barrier that many people face when seeking employment when they have a disability is the lack of confidence to present employable skills and present themselves confidently in an interview. The Job Club helps individuals understand their skills and abilities and their value in employment, allowing participants to become more confident in discussing them with potential employers. A common example is computer, programming, and technology skills. But because these skills are often developed outside of work experience, many people overlook this as a skill that employers might find valuable.

A second Job Club participant worked at a large agency as a COVID tester. The position was this person’s first job and he had no other competitive employment experience. As COVID rates improved in his county, he was told his services as a COVID tester were unlikely to last much longer. He joined the Job Club to help him access competitive employment so he could look for a new job.

Before starting the Job Club, he said he had no employable skills and lacked confidence in his ability to do another job. After completing the Job Club, he learned that his skills in customer service and volunteer work running another program offered by the agency were skills he could report on applications and resumes. This encouraged him to speak with his employer and the HR department to let them know that he was looking for a new job, but wanted to advocate for another position with the agency as he liked working for them. .

He reminded them of his skills, that he never missed a day of work, that he did all the work he was trained to do according to his job description and then took on many tasks additional as requested. Following his self-representation, the agency created a new position to keep him employed by the agency. He would like to continue working with Disability Network to learn more about self-employment in order to fulfill his dream of owning and running his own store.

Disability Network encourages employers to remember that people with disabilities are employable and to be as open to accommodations in the application and interview process as you would be during employment. If you need help or want to learn more, please visit handicapnetwork.org.

Alanna Lahey is associate director of the Disability Network of Northern Michigan in Traverse City. Disability Network Northern Michigan is the first stop for people with disabilities and their families in Northern Michigan with a mission to promote personal empowerment and positive social change for people with disabilities.

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