Secretary Cohen Encourages Business Leaders to Hire People with Disabilities

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services Director Tara Myers, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., N.C. Council on Developmental Disabilities Executive Director Chris Egan, and WorkSource East Facility Director Jackie Tetterton.

Feb. 28, 2018 – Phillip Kirby first took opioids in middle school to manage pain from a sports injury. He soon became dependent on opioids, which led to an addiction to other drugs, including heroin.

Now 25, Kirby is recovering from his addiction. With the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, he’s been a construction laborer at T.A. Loving Co. since April.

“When I first came to VR I was struggling to stay clean and hold down a job,” he said. “They listened to things I wanted to achieve in life. They’ve been very influential and getting me where I am today. I have a steady job, a good job, and I’m proud of where I can go in the future.”

Kirby is benefiting from the new EveryBody Works NC campaign. Launched during National Disability Employment Awareness month last fall, the campaign raises awareness of resources available to support employer efforts to recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities as well as services for jobseekers with disabilities seeking meaningful, competitive employment. The campaign is also done in conjunction with Governor Roy Cooper’s job readiness initiative, NC Job Ready. Phillip Kirby with Secretary Cohen

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., visited Goldsboro on Feb. 26 and Kill Devil Hills on Feb. 1 to bring attention to the campaign, and encourage business leaders to help close the 45-point unemployment gap between working-age people with disabilities and those without.

In Goldsboro, the Secretary spoke to more than 100 attendees at WorkSource East, which helps DVRS clients in the area receive employment training.

“This is a true win-win situation for employers and people with disabilities,” said Secretary Cohen in Goldsboro. “Employers get great, dedicated employees that support a company’s long-term strategic growth, and having a meaningful job creates a sense of pride, belonging and accomplishment for people.”

As a result of the Goldsboro event, six people landed job interviews and another received an opportunity for on-the-job training.

Speaking earlier in the month at Captain George’s Seafood Restaurant in Kill Devil Hills about EveryBody Works, Secretary Cohen asked employers to expand career-oriented employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Phillip Kirby with Secretary Cohen in Goldsboro on Feb. 26.

“Businesses are looking for good workers, who are going to be loyal, longtime employees and be able to do the job that is in front of them,” she told a group gathered at the restaurant. “There is an untapped labor pool in our disability community. People with disabilities are educated, have worked hard in school, and they need to transition to the workforce.”

DVRS plays a big role in this process, partnering with employers to recruit and pre-screen candidates, provide training and job coaching, and identify tools, technology and workplace modifications to optimize productivity.

The events featured nonprofit organizations and government agencies that provide services for or work with workforce development, vocational rehabilitation, law enforcement, intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health, substance abuse, and service and care providers.

Ryan Hill