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People Working with a Disability are Michigan’s Hidden Talent

This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

There is a cluster in Michigan’s labor pool under the radar and hidden from the public eye, especially in manufacturing. They are trained, qualified, loyal, and focused on quality in getting the job done. They also have a disability.

The national unemployment rate for individuals with a disability is twice that of non-disabled — 8.8 percent versus 4.3 percent. In Michigan, only 30 percent of disabled individuals work. Those employed are working for organizations like Ford, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Aetna, Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Walgreens; organizations that should be celebrated for realizing the value of a diverse workforce.

These companies partner with Community Rehabilitation Organizations (CRO) and other non-profits to train and prepare individuals to fill these roles. Training can be performed on site or at one of CRO’s warehouses, producing products for companies like BASF, the Department of Defense, and various auto suppliers. CRO training programs may be tailored to the specific needs of a company and prepare workers for short-term or long-term employment.

Meet Jerome

Jerome works at First Choice Windows, a family- owned business that has welcomed him into their family. He first completed an internship, learning how to assemble and manufacture windows. The job at First Choice was a collaborative effort between Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority and Services to Enhance Potential to match an individual with a disability with a local job that matches their skillset.

When asked about his role at First Choice, Jerome said, “I work with a team and everyone has a job to do. I work with glass cutters, framers and part of what I do is smooth the edges of the glass so it fits in the frame. We work on an assembly line. I love my job!” said Jerome.


You can use STEP to locate your next worker. Learn how the STEP support system impacted Felicia Coatsworth and provided her the skills to excel in her new career. Watch video.


CRO’s develop individualized action plans to help jobseekers like Jerome reach their career goals. “(Jerome) worked as an unpaid intern, learning how to run all of the machines until the company felt he was ready to bring on board as a paid employee,” said STEP Job Developer Kim Keezer of STEP’s Job Readiness Program.

CROs can work with you to train and prepare workers for all types of industry roles — both on a temporary or full-time basis. Many even provide transportation to get workers to and from a facility.

Tax credits and other incentives are often available to employers hiring these individuals and CROs can assist employers in addressing on-site accessibility and other accommodations, often at no cost.

If specialized training is not necessary, a CRO can supplement other opportunities such as skills development and support. Manufacturers may also work with CROs to apply for grants through a variety of state, federal or nonprofit entities, including: The Employer Assistance and Resource Network, The U.S. Workforce Recruitment Program, The Office of Disability Employment Policy, The Job Accommodation Network, The Society for Human Resource Management and state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Manufacturers should evaluate their production needs and other jobs currently available, connect with their local CRO or similar nonprofits to start the conversation about how to hire these valuable members of the workforce.


Premium Associate MemberSTEP is an MMA Premium Associate member and has been an MMA member company since December 2016. Visit online: www.stepcentral.org.

About the Author

Brent MikulskiBrent Mikulski is President and CEO of Services to Enhance Potential (STEP). He may be reached at 313-278-3040 x 204 or bmikulski@stepcentral.org.

This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.

There is a cluster in Michigan’s labor pool under the radar and hidden from the public eye, especially in manufacturing. They are trained, qualified, loyal, and focused on quality in getting the job done. They also have a disability.

The national unemployment rate for individuals with a disability is twice that of non-disabled — 8.8 percent versus 4.3 percent. In Michigan, only 30 percent of disabled individuals work. Those employed are working for organizations like Ford, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Aetna, Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Walgreens; organizations that should be celebrated for realizing the value of a diverse workforce.

These companies partner with Community Rehabilitation Organizations (CRO) and other non-profits to train and prepare individuals to fill these roles. Training can be performed on site or at one of CRO’s warehouses, producing products for companies like BASF, the Department of Defense, and various auto suppliers. CRO training programs may be tailored to the specific needs of a company and prepare workers for short-term or long-term employment.

Meet Jerome

Jerome works at First Choice Windows, a family- owned business that has welcomed him into their family. He first completed an internship, learning how to assemble and manufacture windows. The job at First Choice was a collaborative effort between Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority and Services to Enhance Potential to match an individual with a disability with a local job that matches their skillset.

When asked about his role at First Choice, Jerome said, “I work with a team and everyone has a job to do. I work with glass cutters, framers and part of what I do is smooth the edges of the glass so it fits in the frame. We work on an assembly line. I love my job!” said Jerome.


You can use STEP to locate your next worker. Learn how the STEP support system impacted Felicia Coatsworth and provided her the skills to excel in her new career. Watch video.


CRO’s develop individualized action plans to help jobseekers like Jerome reach their career goals. “(Jerome) worked as an unpaid intern, learning how to run all of the machines until the company felt he was ready to bring on board as a paid employee,” said STEP Job Developer Kim Keezer of STEP’s Job Readiness Program.

CROs can work with you to train and prepare workers for all types of industry roles — both on a temporary or full-time basis. Many even provide transportation to get workers to and from a facility.

Tax credits and other incentives are often available to employers hiring these individuals and CROs can assist employers in addressing on-site accessibility and other accommodations, often at no cost.

If specialized training is not necessary, a CRO can supplement other opportunities such as skills development and support. Manufacturers may also work with CROs to apply for grants through a variety of state, federal or nonprofit entities, including: The Employer Assistance and Resource Network, The U.S. Workforce Recruitment Program, The Office of Disability Employment Policy, The Job Accommodation Network, The Society for Human Resource Management and state vocational rehabilitation agencies.

Manufacturers should evaluate their production needs and other jobs currently available, connect with their local CRO or similar nonprofits to start the conversation about how to hire these valuable members of the workforce.


Premium Associate MemberSTEP is an MMA Premium Associate member and has been an MMA member company since December 2016. Visit online: www.stepcentral.org.

About the Author

Brent MikulskiBrent Mikulski is President and CEO of Services to Enhance Potential (STEP). He may be reached at 313-278-3040 x 204 or bmikulski@stepcentral.org.
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