Guest opinion: Power of community puts disabled to work
In July of last year, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) transferred from the Colorado Department of Human Services to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. At CDLE, we are always working to strengthen and diversify the state’s workforce, and that includes opening doors for Coloradans who may face obstacles to finding meaningful employment.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities have historically been underrepresented in the workforce. While Colorado ranks in the top 10 for workforce participation rate for workers with disabilities in the country, there is still more we can do to unlock this untapped potential.
That’s why this merger has provided us with an excellent opportunity. We now have the chance to rethink, retool and redesign all of our job seeker services for workers with disabilities and to help connect employers to some of the state’s most valuable yet underutilized workforce. It also allows us to engage with DVR staff, clients, employers and vendors to address the challenges and highlight the incredible successes that have already taken place in communities across the state.
DVR not only provides resources to job seekers, but also assists businesses looking to recruit, train, hire and retain capable employees. DVR offers a number of valuable benefits for both the employee and the employer, including providing on-the-job training, offering technical assistance on available tax credits and conducting free disability awareness training.
In addition to working with local employers, DVR relies on local vendors to provide services or products that will help DVR clients on their path to employment. Vendors can provide everything from uniforms and hard hats to medical services or specialized equipment, and can make a big difference in the lives of people in their communities.
DVR has been very fortunate to partner with wonderful employers and vendors right here in Glenwood Springs and across Colorado. Employers, including Wal-Mart and Mountain Valley Developmental Services, and vendors, such as Life Resources LLC, have broken down barriers to employment and helped countless people with disabilities find jobs.
Recently, Gail Shannon and Kiara Christianson from Life Resources, along with the Wal-Mart in Rifle, bridged a gap for one of our DVR clients who needed to develop work skills and gain experience at a first job. The client was ready for employment and started working for Wal-Mart with Life Resources providing job coaching. Wal-Mart provided a computer training program to support the employee, and the company has reported that this client is a much-appreciated employee.
When local employers and vendors team up with their DVR office to bring people with disabilities into the talent pipeline, we can ensure that all Coloradans reach their employment potential. We look forward to working with local businesses and partners towards this greater goal and to harnessing the untapped potential in your community.
To learn more about DVR or if you are interested in partnering with DVR as a vendor or employer, contact the local Glenwood Springs DVR office at 970-945-1042.
Ellen Golombek is executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.