With the U.S. economy growing year by year, employers face the difficult task of continuing to fill vacancies for jobs with specific skills and knowledge. In order to maintain the country’s competitive edge in the job market, it is critical that employers have access to highly skilled workers. With nearly one in five people in the United States identified as having a disability, individuals with disabilities comprise a large group of potential employees who, with the necessary skills and credentials, could take on these a number of jobs roles.
We know, however, that only about 20 percent of people with disabilities are participating in the labor force, and, that rate is significantly lower for those with only a high school diploma or less. For individuals with disabilities who are currently employed, data shows that they are underrepresented in management and professional/technical jobs, and overrepresented in service, production, and transportation jobs.
The challenge now is to create and improve our current systems for preparing low-skilled individuals with disabilities with marketable and in-demand skills. The State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agency often serves as the primary vehicle in the workforce development system for assisting individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals with the most significant disabilities, to prepare for, obtain, retain, or advance in competitive integrated employment.
In order to establish the most effective systems, the U.S. Department of Education announced a notice of final priority and notice inviting applications to establish model demonstration projects to develop and use career pathways to help individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, acquire necessary marketable skills and recognized postsecondary credentials.
For more information, read the department’s full blog article here.