Working Together for Everyone
Last month during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the workforce with disabilities who contribute to our workplaces and economy, we met with Suzy Hutcheson, President and CEO of Helping People Succeed.
There may be no better name for the non-profit that serves more than 7,500 individuals with disabilities, families who may be at risk of abuse or neglect, newborns, and students with behavioral health concerns, as their sole mission is simply put, “to provide services to help them succeed”. But it’s their vision that draws a direct parallel to the work of economic development, “to help each person, no matter what challenges they face, to achieve success and thereby enrich not only their own life but also the community in which we live, work and raise our families.”
“When people ask me why I sit at the table with other economic development professionals and agencies, or why I encourage my staff to attend workforce development meetings and engage with the key leaders in our community, it’s because we want each of our clients to have the opportunity to actively participate in ALL facets of life, especially in the areas of employment,” said Hutcheson. “And that often results in them becoming taxpayers, just like you and I!”
According to the Department of Labor, in August 2021, the employment-population ratio for disabled people hit 19.2%, surpassing its pre-pandemic level of 19.1% in February 2020. In August 2023, it was 23.0%—the highest on record. This is likely partly due to pandemic-prompted changes such as greater access to telework and other workplace flexibilities, which in some cases may open new doors for many disabled workers. There is still much to be learned and understood from the data, but it’s clear that when we work together across agencies, sectors, and industries, many lives and communities can be improved.
A sustainable and diversified economy includes a strong workforce, and a strong workforce is the sum of many parts – most notably a deep pool of skilled people and trades, including those with disabilities.