Readers following my blogging for the past few years know that I’m a passionate advocate for workforce development. That passion was kindled back in August, 2006. That’s when I accepted a position with the Central/Western Maine Workforce Investment Board.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. At the end of June, I was laid off. I wasn’t sure where I’d end up and whether I’d be able to continue in the realm of workforce development or in some other capacity where I could leverage what I’d learned over the past six years.
My new gig (where I’ve been since August 1) with the Maine Business Leadership Network (BLN) is fraught with opportunities. I recognized the possibilities when I was in Orlando in early October at the USBLN conference. It’s now time for me to ramp up the urgency and make the most of my current position to advocate for and champion the employment of people with disabilities.
I left the house at 6:30 this morning for a two-hour drive north to Bangor to take part in Disability Mentoring Day (DMD). I’m happy that I did. I got to meet so many wonderful people, hear a great presentation by EMDC’s Denise Smith, on “Social Media & Your Job Search,” and better understand the scope of what I’ll need to be about as director of our BLN in Maine. I also had the chance to reconnect with a few others from my LWIB past.
Gwen Lapointe, along with other members of the Disability Employment Initiative team (Coleen Giblen and Laurie Joy) did an amazing job coordinating logistics and making sure that everyone’s time was valued. Staff from the Bangor CareerCenter did their part to make sure that DMD 2012 was a success.
DMD is a national event, connecting nearly 17,000 students and job seekers with disabilities nationwide, to thousands of employers each year. In 2011, Disability Mentoring Day events took place in over 200 locations across the U.S.
The DMD experience has helped hundreds of Maine students by offering hands-on learning through job shadows, presentations and other activities that bring the world of work to young people and jobseekers with disabilities. I was pleased to see a number of Bangor-area employers engaged in today’s event, including a forum and several breakouts dealing with the specifics of being hired.
All across Maine, individuals with disabilities are using their talents—as workers, employers, as well as business owners, to strengthen the state’s economy. At the same time, the employment rate of persons with disabilities in Maine is below 35 percent, which is less than half the employment rate for Mainers without disabilities.
Efforts are in place to promote new and existing pathways to employment for people with disabilities. However, more needs to be done to reach the goal of a Maine where opportunities are available and accessible to all its citizens. The Maine BLN intends to be part of this effort promoting an inclusive workforce.
Note: WABI-TV 5 sent a team to cover today’s event and offers a report.