Businesses share experiences, best practices and benefits of hiring people with disabilities

More than 40 people attended the Nov. 17 Workforce Solutions Summit to learn from businesses about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.

Mary Stagaman talks to the audience about the importance of inclusive hiring.

“We want to bring more people with disabilities into gainful employment, and this has to be part of our strategy,” said Mary Stagaman, senior inclusion adviser for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. “There are many barriers to employment but that does not mean unemployable.”

Stagaman, who provided the keynote speech, said people with disabilities have diverse experiences and businesses can benefit from this pool of talent.

Fifth Third Bank utilized Project Search, a business-led school-to-work transition program, to find employees with disabilities and expand hiring, said Program Manager Mitch Morgan.

He added employee engagement has improved by having people with disabilities on staff. For example, Morgan said, one year after Fifth Third hired two Project Search graduates, that department had a 30 percent increase in regular attendance at work.

“We pursued learning and best practices, and did our homework for what skills are needed and train people to do that job,” he said. “It took a long time to get to a point to justify the business case. You can have challenges with any employee, and it’s important to create a match for the position.”

Kings Island also adopts the practice of finding the right employee for each job, whether it is in food service, games, admissions or elsewhere. The amusement park has been hiring people with disabilities for years, setting special interview days and finding the best fit.

“They have an overwhelming pride in their work and love the job,” said Diann Shafer from Kings Island. “Our guests respond positively and enjoy seeing them around the park.”

Warren County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Kirby also has experienced benefits after hiring someone with a disability to help gather files for cases. “Her motivation and enthusiasm are contagious,” he said. Small adaptations for her, like using a cart to collect files or having an alphabet chart, have been adopted by other employees.

At ThyssenKrupp Bilstein in Butler County, they’ve hired 14 people with disabilities. “It’s a pool of untapped talent,” said Paul Meintel, who works with the company’s aftermarket group. “It’s a secret boon because they bring so much to the table,” he said.

Having discussions and hearing from other business leaders helps because familiarity starts to remove the idea of “other,” which Stagaman said is vital as Cincinnati’s businesses continue to grow and look for new workforce talent.

Matt Disher of Cintas and Lauren Todd of ViaQuest moderated the panel. The County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties partnered for this regional event at the Crowne Plaza in Blue Ash.

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