For the past three years Select International has participated in Disability Mentoring Day, which took place this year on Wednesday, October 15th. Select International is proud to have been involved in this program. This year we hosted 7 students from the Pine Richland, PA School District. The day consisted of several activities, including: an office tour, executive address from our CEO, and interviewing practice with mentors.
This event is one of the highlights of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Disability Mentoring Day began in 1999 as part of a White House effort to increase the profile of NDEAM. It is a nationwide effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration. The need for a program like this is apparent when you look at the statistics. Over 70% of people in the US with no documented disability are employed compared to fewer than 22% of US citizens with a disability. Clearly more awareness is needed.
Additionally, in an attempt to close this gap there are new data collection guidelines that have been implemented for organizations with federal contracts, who fall under review of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). These organizations are required to collect the disability status on their current workforce as well as their applicant pools through a self-identification form administered to employees and applicants. The goal is to meet a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified individuals with disabilities. Currently there are no penalties for not meeting these goals, but organizations must conduct an annual utilization analysis to assess their problem areas, and make specific action-oriented programs to address any issues.
These new federal guidelines and data collection requirements are not without their challenges. However most organizations understand and value the emphasis placed on hiring people with disabilities. Speaking from experience, individuals with disabilities can be some of the hardest working and most reliable employees. They do not want a handout but rather are motivated to add value and give their lives additional purpose. Disability Mentoring Day is now one of the highlights of my year. I encourage other organizations to look at participating in this special event as a way to dispel fears about hiring people with disabilities and increase the confidence in students and job seekers.