The value of workers with disabilities

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Employers across the nation are facing a shortage of workers.

An often overlooked, but valuable group is individuals with disabilities.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month and we spoke with two organizations about why this group is an asset to the workforce.

North Dakota, like the entire country, is facing a shortage of workers.

Job Service North Dakota is a resource available to connect employers and job-seekers.

Susan Ogurek, the Workforce Center Manager in Minot, says employers shouldn’t count out individuals with disabilities when they are hiring.

“It’s another group of our population that is very ready and willing to work,” said Susan Ogurek.

Ogurek said some employers may be deterred because they’re not sure what type of accommodations they would have to make, but she said many aren’t as expensive as you would think.

“Could be something as simple as maybe being a little bit more flexible work schedule for the individual,” said Ogurek. “Maybe it’s someone who has to take, has to utilize, public transportation to get to and from work.”

She said there are organizations that will help people with disabilities find jobs.

“Our Vocational Rehabilitation and employment is an example of that and they often can help the employer understand what kind of job accommodations that person might need,” said Ogurek. “Then you also have Independence Inc.”

Scott Burlingame, the Executive Director, said the worker shortage should make employers more flexible.

“People with disabilities are traditionally one of the last and most underutilized resources when it comes to employment and there’s a lot of people out there who are looking to work,” said Scott Burlingame. “And any opportunity that an employer can maybe be a little more flexible, they can find a long term employee who can make a big difference in their company.”

According to a recent compendium, the employment rate for workers with disabilities in North Dakota is 57.2 percent compared to 38.8 percent nationally.

“I think it’s something North Dakota can definitely be proud of, that our culture and in our beliefs in the importance of employment have bled over into our expectations of people with disabilities.”

Burlingame added hiring people with disabilities is a win for everyone involved.

“Employment is the ultimate anti-poverty program so the more people with disabilities that we can get employed, the more people with disabilities we can get out of poverty,” said Burlingame.

For more information on the North Dakota Department of Human Services Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, click here, or call toll-free at 1-800-755-2745.

For more information on Independence Inc., click here, or call 701-839-4724.

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