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Workforce pilot program will aim to hire more people with disabilities

House bill 1160 would create a workforce pilot program to train more people with disabilities for open entry level jobs
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Posted at 9:58 PM, Mar 28, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — 250,000 people with disabilities are either under employed or un-employed in the state of Indiana. That’s according to The Arc of Indiana. The Arc of Indiana works to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They say this is an untapped workforce that could help fill job openings in Indiana.

One individual with disabilities that has taken advantage of the current job placement programs, like The ARC and other disabilities advocacy organizations, is Hunter Brooking. He has been working at Cook Medical in Bloomington in the cafeteria for five years.

"That program has really changed my life though,” Brooking who has autism said. “Meeting new people, talking to some of the people with disabilities and seeing what they were going through before they started the program before me. "

Cook Medical has been hiring people with disabilities for over a decade. Something they say is a benefit to their company.

"Lets have that conversation to say what positions can we fill with people with disabilities because they are out there they want to work and lets give those folks opportunities to work," Lisa Butcher an Employee Relations Specialist at Cook Medical said.

At the end of last year, the state of Indiana had more than 136,000 job openings, many of them entry level positions. In the disabilities community there is an 80 percent unemployment rate. House bill 1160 would create a workforce pilot program to train more people with disabilities for those open spots.

"House bill 1160 will bring together two or more companies in a community to focus not just on skilling up existing workers but also on bringing new workers in to the workforce,” State Representative Ed Clere the author of the bill and Republican from New Albany said. “Those new workers will be people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities."

The Arc of Indiana would spearhead the pilot program aimed at filling manufacturing jobs. This expansion is something they say will benefit both the employers and those in the disabilities community.

"We know we have thousands of people out there who are ready to work, who can work, who can work in the manufacturing space. We just don't have employers who understand and recognize and think about our employees as those potential workers," Kim Dodson the CEO of The Arc of Indiana said.

That's why companies like Cook Medical hope sharing Hunters story will show the value those with disabilities bring to a work place.

"Someone like Hunter comes to work every day. That is something that we are noticing with people with disabilities is the work ethic,” Butcher said. “So being here every day, being on time, I think with Hunter he always has enthusiasm to be at work."

The bill has passed out of the house unanimously. On Monday it passed out of the Senate Family and child services committee. It now heads to the senate appropriations committee. Stakeholders from the state are working through funding details as there are various streams of money that may be available.