This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Innovative manufacturers look for talent across all demographics. It’s not about who you are; it’s about whether you have the skills to do the job. Whether it’s women, veterans, near-retirement baby boomers or recently graduated millennials, there’s a place for every person in manufacturing. The month of October places the spotlight on another group valuable to the workforce as America celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Thousands of men and women in Michigan are wrongly identified first by a disability instead of by the skills and opportunity they present to local communities and the manufacturing workforce. Services To Enhance Potential (STEP) is a Dearborn-based workforce training organization dedicated to fixing this.
“Most manufacturers may not realize 30 percent of the disabled workforce is actively seeking employment — the talent employers want is out there; it’s just hidden behind a shroud of bad assumptions and negativity,” explained Brent Mikulski, STEP president & CEO.
Established in 1972, this nonprofit and its team of nearly 200 trainers work with local people with disabilities to develop the valuable soft skills and technical abilities manufacturers look for. STEP’s mission is to support individuals in the pursuit of their goals and the achievement of personal satisfaction in their lives while helping local businesses to fulfill staffing needs and overcome a stigma disabled people face every day.
“The disabled workforce is often viewed as a population typically requiring more supervision and working at a slower pace than non-disabled employees, while in fact many individuals with disabilities continue to out-perform and require less direction than others in the workplace,” said Mikulski.
Through job training, mock interviews, funding and a variety of other resources, 60-80 individuals receive long-term job placement annually and over 320 are currently moving through the STEP system.
“Those that are employed aren’t working in the shadows,” Mikulski added. “They work for companies with global reputations of excellence — Ford, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Aetna, Amazon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Walgreens to name only a few.”
National Disability Employment Awareness Month is the national effort to identify this unique class of skilled workers and, like MFG Day, provide resources to help manufacturers connect with and accommodate new talent. Employers interested in expanding their hiring model to include people with disabilities should:
- Review policies
- Establish an Employee Resource Group (check out the August 2017 cover story for details)
- Create a display
- Train supervisors
- Educate employees
- Publish articles
- Develop social media activities
- Issue press releases
- Participate in Disability Mentoring Day (10/17/18)
Even if your business is outside of southeast Michigan, a call to STEP can help locate similar services in your area.
Mikulski added, “when you bring these people into the workforce, you’ll discover they cherish working for you because you’ve given them their independence and a purpose. Their dedication and commitment will brighten the workplace and boost your reputation as a business worth working with.”
A key resource STEP provides is their local thrift stores providing people with the independence they want and the job opportunities they need. Watch the STEP Agency Spotlight video to learn more.
Services to Enhance Potential is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since December 2016. Visit online: www.stepcentral.org.