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Vermont disability organizations are working together to inform employers about a large group of in-state residents who could be valuable employees. The campaign, called Our Time Is Now, aims to help Vermonters with disabilities join the workforce.
Vermont’s workforce took a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, losing 22,000 workers since 2019, according to Kyle Thweatt, a spokesperson for the Vermont Department of Labor. Leaders of the campaign say the Vermonters they work with are ready and able to help the state bounce back.
Involved in the campaign are the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council, HireAbility Vermont, Vermont Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Vermont Statewide Independent Living Council.
“There’s an untapped market of folks with disabilities out in the community wanting to work,” said Sarah Launderville, executive director of the Vermont Center for Independent Living.
The center says there are 44,000 working-age Vermonters with disabilities, but only about half are employed. The campaign’s goals are to help those Vermonters find jobs while also helping employers make jobs more accessible.
The Our Time is Now campaign launched last month and the center is already reporting promising results. According to Launderville, employers around the state have reached out to the Vermont Center for Independent Living and other campaign partners, expressing interest in hiring Vermonters with disabilities.
HireAbility Vermont, which connects Vermonters with disabilities to employers, reports an increase in employers contacting them to hire people with disabilities and to create a more accessible workplace.
Nathan Piper, who oversees business relations for HireAbility, said that in the past it had been up to his organization to reach out to employers to spread the word about accessibility in the workplace. This new campaign is bringing interested employers to HireAbility.
“What we’re looking for is the relationship with the business,” Piper said. “The opportunity to connect individuals to the employer and the employer to individuals.”
The organizations hope the campaign will continue to rack up support and successes from employers across the state. Diane Dalmasse, director of HireAbility, hopes to build increased awareness of the role Vermonters with disabilities can play in the state’s workforce.
“People with disabilities want to work, can work and do work,” Dalmasse said. “We should work toward giving them those opportunities, particularly in the labor market that we're currently facing where we have shortages everywhere.”
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