The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will host a disability underemployment symposium in Seattle next week (August 6 & 7). DePaul Industries’ CEO Dave Shaffer will be making a presentation on both days on Establishing a Workplace Culture of Accessibility — which, of course, means you have two opportunities to catch the presentation! Dave will share insight and experiences to help employers identify the impact that their workplace culture has on employees with disabilities, and unique ways to address potential issues.
DePaul Industries Blog
Great news! We released our 2011 disability employment statistics today, showing an increase of 21% of hours worked by people with disabilities for DePaul Industries.
This announcement comes on the heels, of course, of our organization being named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon’ by Oregon Business magazine for the second year in a row. We’re proud to be able to employ such a large number of people, including a significant percentage of people with disabilities—and to have those employees enjoy their jobs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 13.6% in January 2011, compared with 9.7% for people without disabilities. In our combined Staffing, Security, and Food Packaging & Contract Manufacturing divisions across Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, we employed 1,513 people with documented disabilities in calendar year 2011 and paid those individuals wages & benefits of nearly $11.4 million. Those numbers are rising.
Our President & CEO, Dave Shaffer, chimed in with a comment regarding our growth and expansion: “With plans in place to nearly triple our employment of people with disabilities within five years, we’re excited about this significant increase in hours worked. It’s made possible by business with our customers—the more our customers outsource their staffing, packaging, or security work to DePaul, the more we can leverage the highly effective and highly underutilized workforce of people with disabilities.”
Questions about our expansion plans or about our integrated social venture structure? Leave a comment below or get in touch.
Yesterday, the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Oregon filed a class action lawsuit against Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and other state officials in the hopes of ending the practice of sheltered workshop employment for people with disabilities. According to the lawsuit, these individuals are “stuck in long-term, dead-end, facility based sheltered workshops that offer virtually no interaction with non-disabled peers.” It again brings the difficult issue of a widespread lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities to public consciousness.
We’re neither defending nor disputing sheltered workshops as it applies to this lawsuit. We don’t believe sheltered workshops are the only solution to employment of people with significant cognitive or physical disabilities—or anyone with significant barriers to employment, for that matter—nor do we believe that they are the only problem. Indeed; there’s no one-size-fits-all, no single solution to the large problem of disability unemployment in general. People with disabilities are individuals with a wide scope of abilities and employment goals. Many of these individuals want to work competitively and can be valuable, productive employees that businesses would want to hire. We can’t overlook business as an integral part of the employment picture. Thus, we believe that employment programs that collaborate with business make the most sense for the largest number of people with disabilities.
DePaul Industries has spearheaded the Project SEARCH program for people with significant intellectual disabilities in Oregon for several years. Project SEARCH participants work onsite in positions alongside non-disabled employees at large Portland businesses like The Standard as true, integrated employees: They are on these companies’ payrolls, receiving all applicable benefits and career advancement opportunities. These employers embrace the program not only because it’s a social good, but because it just makes good business sense—the employees are good workers adding value to their employers. We are currently developing more opportunities with other large Oregon employers, but we can’t—and don’t want to—do it alone.
We definitely don’t have all of the answers, but we believe Project SEARCH is one solution that needs to gain traction, and one that possesses the underpinnings to provide the most benefits for all involved—for business, for the state, for private investors, for service organizations, and most importantly for people with disabilities. We’re not laying claim to the model—it needs to grow legs. If you’re a business, come talk to us. If you’re with the state, come talk to us. If you’re an agency that works for the employment of people with disabilities, come talk to us. We want to work with you. This is an opportunity to collaborate—to develop a concerted, combined effort among all stakeholders to put a significant dent in this problem. Only then can we really change the landscape of employment for people with disabilities.