Minnesota launches disability hiring initiative

Minnesota recently unveiled Connect 700, a program that will give people with disabilities up to 700 hours of on-the-job work experience in state agencies to demonstrate their abilities. A second supported work program will offer people with disabilities up to 50 full-time positions in state agencies.

 “We need to lead by example,” Gov. Mark Dayton said. “We can’t expect businesses and nonprofits to be spearheading new efforts if we aren’t leading the way.”

The move is part of a longer-term effort by the state to reverse what had been a sharp decline in the state’s employment of people with disabilities. Before Dayton took office, a number of state agencies had stopped tracking the hiring and recruiting of people with disabilities, officials said. Agencies had affirmative action plans, but they lacked specific disability employment goals. As a result, the rate of workers with disabilities in state government had plunged from 10 percent in 1999 to less than 4 percent in 2013.

In August 2014, Dayton directed state agencies to increase the share of disabled workers to at least 7 percent by August 2018. Since then, the state has designed a model for recruiting and hiring people with disabilities, and has mandated quarterly reporting on hiring targets. Currently, the overall percentage of state employees with disabilities is 6.2 percent, but a number of state agencies are still below 4 percent.

Read more from the Minnesota Star Tribune.

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