During National Disability Employment Awareness Month and beyond, Goodwill encourages businesses to consider the skills and abilities of workers with disabilities
SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – Reflecting on the important role that diversity and inclusion play in workforce success, Goodwill Manasota is proud to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Observed annually in October, NDEAM – whose origins date back to 1945 – celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive policies and practices that benefit employees and employers alike. This year’s NDEAM theme is “Advancing Access and Equity.”
While things have improved greatly since the pandemic – with the unemployment rate dropping from 10.1% in 2021 to 7.6% in 2022 – persons with disabilities still find themselves at a significant disadvantage in the workforce. In good times or bad, those with disabilities have a much higher unemployment rate than the general population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, the unemployment rate for persons with a disability was nearly twice as high as the rate for persons with no disability (3.5%).
“Our communities and economy are strengthened by the inclusion of all people, including people with disabilities,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an accessible, equitable economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”
Goodwill Industries has worked for over 120 years to support job seekers with disabilities and barriers to employment through training, job placement and employment. Locally, Goodwill Manasota offers the Supported JobsPlus (SJP) program. Implemented in 2005, the SJP program targets sustainable employment for those with significant disabilities. Of Goodwill’s more than 850 employees, approximately 70% have self-identified disabilities and/or disadvantaging conditions, while 76 of its team members have significant disabilities and have required a job coach to provide necessary support. All Goodwill Manasota employees, including SJP participants, are paid an hourly wage of $14 or higher.
Additionally, in 2022, Goodwill served 489 people with disabilities across all its programs: Job Connection/Community Resource Centers, American Veterans and Their Families, GoodPartner Coach and Supported JobsPlus.
Zachary Bye is a Supported JobsPlus employee who has worked at Goodwill for eight years as a sales floor team member and is a valuable and valued team member at the organization. Bye, 29, is a graduate of Prew Academy who lives with his grandparents in Sarasota.
In addition to his work duties, Bye is quite active at Goodwill, participating in many of Goodwill’s Wellness Challenges. He earned a prize for the water challenge, lost an inch in the core war waist challenge and, in the cookbook challenge, was featured for his grandmother’s “Mississippi Pot Roast” recipe, receiving a Goodwill apron and a copy of the cookbook. He also participated last year in the walking challenge. Bye is a frequent recipient of monthly “Heart Cards” from co-workers, usually because he has jumped in to help other team members complete tasks – something he does without being asked or told.
His supervisors report that, on the days he doesn’t work, he is truly missed and that his smile lights up the room and lifts the spirits of his co-workers.
“At Goodwill, we choose to focus on abilities rather than see barriers to our mutual success,” says Goodwill Manasota President & CEO Donn Githens. “Our team members with disabilities are reliable, hardworking, loyal and diligent, and help to foster an environment of empathy and kindness throughout our workforce. We have implemented policies and invested resources to ensure all of our team members have a pathway to find fulfillment and achieve success.”
For more about Goodwill, visit experiencegoodwill.org.
Zachary Bye is a Goodwill Manasota team member who receives support through the Supported JobsPlus program
Goodwill team member Zachary Bye with Pamela Bavo, the GoodPartner Coach at Goodwill's Honore store
About Goodwill Manasota Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.