By Veronica Miller
Goodwill of Middle Georgia
In recognition of the vital role performed by workers with disabilities, Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA commemorates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) this month. This observance highlights the important role played by workers with disabilities in enhancing workplace diversity.
This year’s NDEAM theme is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), which oversees NDEAM, created this year’s theme with input from many of its partner organizations, including those that represent employers, people with disabilities, and their families, plus federal, state, and local agencies.
Empowering workers of all abilities is core to Goodwill’s mission. Since 1998, Good VocationsSM, a not-for-profit organization managed by Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, has provided job skills training for individuals with disabilities. In conjunction with SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne Program, Good Vocations provides individuals with disabilities access to employment through training and placement into meaningful jobs through contracts at Robins Air Force Base and Fort Gordon. This training helps people with severe disabilities prepare for jobs that provide competitive wages and good benefits, which can lead to greater independence and a better quality of life. Good Vocations offers hands-on training and work experience that will prepare clients to meet employer needs.
In 2017, the Good Vocations program provided 214,399 job-training hours to Good Vocations employees and clients. Through our two Good Vocations contracts at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins and Fort Gordon in Augusta, more than two dozen workers stocked more than 1 million cases of groceries and products on the shelves of the commissaries in 2017.
The Robins AFB contract, first signed in 1980, was the first of its kind in the United States; the Fort Gordon contract has been in place since 1986.
In addition, Good Vocations provides custodial services at Robins Air Force Base – the largest employer in Georgia – and at Fort Gordon. Nearly 150 custodial services employees, who are certified by the Cleaning Management Institute, are responsible for cleaning 6 million square feet each day combined at the two facilities.
According to recent statistics on the Office of Disability Employment Policy website, only one-third of working-age people with disabilities were employed, compared to over two-thirds of people without disabilities. Workplace access for workers with disabilities “depends in part on public and corporate policies regarding access to appropriate education, computer skills, and other training; disability income policies; and the availability of workplace accommodations and other employment supports,” per the report.
“Goodwill believes work is the cornerstone of the ‘American dream’ and the foundation for strong families. By helping all workers to achieve their full potential – through education, specialized skills training, and the power of work – we are able to build stronger communities,” said James K. Stiff, president of Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA. “We look forward to a day when all Americans with disabilities who have a desire to achieve self-sufficiency will be able to find jobs and make important contributions to the workplace and their communities.”
“Americans of all abilities must have access to good, safe jobs,” remarked U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Smart employers know that including different perspectives in problem-solving situations leads to better solutions. Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens their business, increases competition, and drives innovation.”
For more information about how your donation can help Goodwill support employees with disabilities in obtaining meaningful employment, visit Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA website at www.Goodwillworks.org.