Our public workforce should reflect our state’s diversity, but Minnesota is not living up to this standard. Research shows that 10 percent of Minnesota’s civilian noninstitutionalized population has a disability, but only a little more than three percent of state public employees are disabled. The state’s disabled workforce has been shrinking for 15 years—now is the time to reverse the trend.
In response to recent criticism by disability advocates, Governor Mark Dayton issued an executive order last week that urges state agencies to hire more workers with disabilities. The order outlines a goal to double the amount of Minnesota’s public employees with disabilities to at least 7 percent by August 2018.
Under Dayton’s order, all Executive Branch Agencies must work to hire more people with disabilities by designing better recruitment strategies, updating hiring tools, training managers and human resource personnel, and submitting quarterly progress reports.
As the largest employer in Minnesota, the state is responsible for offering employment opportunities to all of its citizens. The talents of individuals with disabilities cannot be overlooked.
Governor Dayton’s executive order will hopefully inspire the state to embrace its potential as a model employer. As more people with disabilities gain careers as public employees of the state, businesses and organizations will learn the importance of equal employment.
Commenting on the reason behind Minnesota’s failure to hire more workers with disabilities, Governor Dayton told MPR, “Part of it is just the lack of attention to this as a priority.”
In order to successfully prioritize equality throughout all of Minnesota’s economic landscape, the state government must create an accessible, welcoming environment for disabled persons through workplace accommodations, staff education, and community awareness training.
Proactive recruitment is necessary to inform the disability community about available public positions. State agencies should partner with disability advocacy organizations to reach out to potential employees. Minnesota’s government must also work to improve the accessibility of job applications and the hiring process.
The Governor’s executive order was only the first step in transforming the state into a model employer. Communities must support the government as it implements improvements to open employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. With our state leaders on board, all of Minnesota’s employers will learn to embrace equality.