Healthcare’s growing importance in the American economy has particular impact for job seekers with disabilities. Organizations specializing in job placement for the disabled find that healthcare employers offer unrivaled access to careers at a better rate than for any other industry in the nation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment for the disabled is 12.9%, which is more than 5% higher than the national average and a 3.6% increase since the onset of the recession in 2008. However, healthcare job growth has risen steadily even during times of economic tumult. The sector is expected to increase by 5.6 million jobs within the next eight years, creating many available positions for disabled candidates.
At Goodwill Industries, International Director of Workforce Development Brad Turner-Little says health-care industry job growth plays a significant role in helping disabled job seekers find work. “One-in-five Americans have some kind of disability,” he says, and many of those either work in health care today or will find a job in that sector in the coming years.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 54 million Americans have a disability, which translates into 10% of the population age 18 to 64, the vast majority of the labor force.
Obviously, this also is not a segment of our population that can be painted with a broad brush, as Maggie Roffee of the U.S. Business Leadership Network points out.
“You’re talking about people with non-apparent disabilities, into those with significant disabilities,” she says.
Disabled is hardly a one-size-fits-all descriptor, though battling preconceived notions that Roffee says can be based off of just person, or one idea of disabled is a job seeker’s greatest challenge.
Advancements have been made. Roffee explains educational opportunities were limited to those with disabilities as recently as the 1970s. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and she had has made strides.
Janet Fiore, CEO of Recruit Disability.com, says, “Hiring people with disabilities is a good business move. People with disabilities are often highly motivated to contribute and they bring a new point of view to traditional problem solving.” She adds that new Federal regulations will also be a factor in helping companies realize the importance of hiring disabled candidates.
Despite the movement to provide the disabled with more and better opportunities, employers still have misconceptions.
“The perception…is that disabled workers are not as valuable,” he says, adding that just isn't true.
Roffee echoes this sentiment. She says that educating hirers is the most effective means for solving the unemployment problem posed to those with disabilities.
“When companies see people with disabilities who are capable, involved…it changes the attitude,” she says.
She says companies are becoming increasingly proactive in diversifying their staffs with disabled applicants. She calls this “building a pipeline for the future.”
Goodwill Industries is a leader in career solutions for the disabled. Turner-Little says that part of its mission is combating the stereotypes that hinder these job seekers in an increasingly challenging job landscape. Through its independent local branches, the organization hosts career counseling programs that emphasize job aptitude, resume writing and interview techniques.
Accentuating specialized job skills is a primary objective of the organization’s aptitude training, and Turner-Little says various employment sectors are taking notice. Within the medical industry, pharmaceutical careers make for a welcoming niche to the disabled. He says Goodwill works closely with many pharmaceutical companies in placement programs.
The tech sector is of growing importance, as well. Young workers with disabilities are no different than their counterparts, having grown up on technology. Roffee says the USBLN is seeing more tech career opportunities opened to the disabled, particularly in the market research and product development side.