Written on: May 31st, 2013 in Job Creation
As Chair of the National Governors Association, I’ve had a unique opportunity to tell the story of Delaware’s successes to leaders across the country and demonstrate ways in which our state has set examples for others to follow on issues such as education reform and health care innovation.
I’m particularly proud that the First State has shown leadership in the area of my national Chair’s initiative: employing people with disabilities. Today, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, who helped author the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus, have joined me in Wilmington, along with the event’s co-hosts The Council on Foundations and the US Business Leadership Council, for a summit on boosting education and employment outcomes for Americans with disabilities. We are joined by representatives of the philanthropic community, policymakers and experts from around the country . The goals of the conference include increasing awareness of chronic unemployment of individuals with disabilities, including our veterans, and examining ways to bring together the business, philanthropic, and public sectors to address this challenge.
Chip Rossi, Bank of America’s Delaware Market President and our site host for the summit, writes about the event and Delaware’s proactive efforts in today’s News Journal. Highlighting our recent passage of the Employment First Act, sponsored by Representative Debra Heffernan, Chip notes that we now require state agencies to make skill development and mainstream employment a priority in serving the disabilities community. Chip also emphasizes the most important message of the summit and NGA initiative: from a business perspective, this is not about charity. Businesses that embrace a diverse workforce are robust in the long run. The focus should be on a person’s ability, not their disability.
While it can be seen as a moral issue, our effort to increase the employment of people with disabilities is about a better bottom line. I can find no better example of that than this week’s announcement by Delaware-based Computer Aid Inc. that it plans to employ people with autism in over 3% of its consultant workforce by 2015. With passionate support from Secretary Rita Landgraf of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services, the company has formed the first U.S. partnership with Specialisterne, a business founded in Denmark that identifies employment opportunities for individuals with autism. These employees not only hold down jobs, but in some fields that require tedious tasks like software testing and programming, they are among the best qualified.
Our greatest asset is our people and we need to take advantage of everyone’s abilities. Making disabilities employment a priority will not only allow more Delawareans to reach their potential, but also help ensure our state can compete and win on the global stage.