I am writing to thank and congratulate the Florida Legislature for passing what we feel is incredibly important legislation: HB 7003, which is headed for the governor's desk for his signature. HB 7003 will recognize companies that hire workers with disabilities, and also offer other programs for the disabled.
This is a major step toward encouraging Florida businesses to consider the abilities rather than the disabilities of qualified individuals who want nothing more than a chance to earn a paycheck. We are all-too aware that such encouragement is sorely needed.
In October of last year, we partnered with the Gulfcoast CEO Forum to present the results of an independent study, "State of Employment," during a luncheon attended by nearly 200 community members. The study looked at the current employment numbers and the forecast for jobs in our community over the next three to five years for veterans and persons with disabilities. More than 400 area employers were asked for their feedback.
Here are some of the key findings of the study:
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In 2014, unemployment rates for persons with disabilities were 12.6 percent in the United States overall, 11.3 percent in Florida, and 11.2 percent in Manatee County. The overall unemployment rate in the U.S. in 2014 was 5.6 percent, Florida's was 5.7 percent, and Manatee's was 5.7 percent.
Of the 7,558 full-time employees (FTEs) in the companies employing persons with disabilities, representatives estimated that 476 FTEs (6 percent) were persons with disabilities.
Asked how well persons with disabilities hired in the past three years met their companies' job performance expectations, interviewees gave an average rating of 8 on a scale of one to 10 where one was "did not meet expectations" and 10 was "significantly exceeded expectations."
Asked how well persons with disabilities hired in the past three years met their companies' job performance expectations, interviewees gave an average rating of 8 on a scale of one to 10.
Interviewees whose companies employ persons with disabilities rated how challenging it was to recruit qualified persons with disabilities for job openings an average of 7.5 on a scale of one to 10 (where one was "not at all challenging" and 10 was "extremely challenging").
The study clearly indicated that companies which hire employees with disabilities are extremely happy with their performance, while at the same time indicating that recruiting qualified persons with disabilities is challenging.
Since its inception in 1902, Goodwill Industries has been committed to providing job opportunities to job seekers with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Goodwill provides job training and employment opportunities, as well as placement and support services and rehabilitation programs.
Locally, there are 115 individuals -- approximately 14 percent of our workforce -- with significant disabilities employed at Goodwill Manasota. Each of these individuals plays an integral role in our success, and each is compensated fairly for their work.
We have had to be innovative in our approach to recruitment and retention, engaging scores of community partners, creating detailed policies, and investing significant resources into ensuring that our team members with disabilities have the tools they need to be successful.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. Our team members with disabilities are hard-working, reliable and, most importantly, eminently capable. Our investment in their success means they have the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency: a steady paycheck, a means to buy life's necessities, and feelings of worth and dignity. In return, we are inspired each and every day by their determination to overcome every obstacle placed in their path.
While efforts like the Americans with Disabilities Act and National Disability Employment Awareness Month have improved conditions and opportunities for workers with disabilities, finding meaningful employment continues to be a challenge for many. We believe that everyone deserves a chance to earn a paycheck and feel the dignity of work. By ensuring there are opportunities for individuals with disabilities, we create a stronger workforce and local economy. It is truly a win-win -- and it's the right thing to do.
Thanks to increased awareness, beneficial legislation and business owners with the vision to give someone who may have been overlooked elsewhere a chance, millions of Americans with disabilities are able to make important contributions to the workplace every day. But we can do better for those who are often overlooked in our community -- we just have to want to.
Thanks to HB 7003, Florida's business owners will have further incentive to give individuals with disabilities that opportunity.
Bob Rosinsky, is the president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota.