Disability Inclusion: Innovation@Work!! This was the message, as the NCBLN celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), during the 2017 Fall Conference held on October 5th at Wells Fargo’s “The Green” location in Charlotte.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts kicked off the day celebrating employers across NC for their commitment to disability inclusion. By Proclamation Mayor Roberts recognized that the contributions of people with disabilities serves to enrich the diversity of communities across NC and enhances the economic growth of our State. Later, Patrick Graham, President and CEO of Charlotte Works, the workforce board of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County shared some good news.
Last year 7065 individuals with barriers to employment were placed in jobs. The bad news is that only 4% of those individuals were persons with disabilities. Recognizing the work to be done, Patrick said that when the doors open for people with disabilities they remain open for all possibilities. He went on to say that there is no more innovative class of individuals than those with disabilities.
If anyone in attendance doubted that statement, it was put to rest immediately following Richie Parker’s dynamic keynote message. After 10 years with Hendrick Motorsports working as an Engineer and Vehicle Design Group Manager, using his feet to design vehicle components, innovation has been key to Richie’s success both personally and professionally and he challenged all attendees to find innovative ways to solve everyday challenges.
The excitement continued as the NCBLN, NCDDC and NCVR launched a statewide, “Everybody Works NC” campaign during a press conference held during one of the morning breaks. The conference continued with Patricia Richards, Director of Disability Supplier Diversity Program (DSDP) for USBLN, who led a rich panel discussion on “The Power of Disability Suppliers in the Supply Chain” that highlighted AgiliTech Solutions, LLC a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Enterprise, located in Cary, NC and two representatives from corporate Supplier Diversity programs at Wells Fargo and TIAA. They discussed the rigorous national certification program for disability owned businesses and the opportunities for growth and development of small businesses that it provides. Anna Yon, of Cardinal Innovations, wrapped up the morning with a conversation around the importance of Mental Health Wellness in our Community.
The 2017 NCBLN Employer of the Year Awards were presented by Donna Sobotkin, Unit Manager- Charlotte of NCVR. The following employers were honored for their commitment to disability inclusion in the workforce:
- Collins Cleaners, CDA/Elite Staffing and,
- Omni Hotel in Uptown Charlotte.
The NCBLN also recognized Ron Reeve with the Stephen LaBour Leadership Award for his leadership and vision as a champion of persons with disabilities in NC. Following lunch, that included live entertainment from Menelik Cannady, a Queens University student with autism, majoring in Music Therapy and time to visit resource rooms that showcased NCBLN’s Talent Source Network partners, the conference continued with a live demonstration of a web accessibility review from Matt Hempel, President and CEO of AgiliTech Solutions, LLC. Chandler Henry, Senior Tax Accountant and Marilyn Nastiuk, Co-Leader of the Disability Advocacy Network from Bank of America provided great information on the agility sometimes needed when companies source top talent that falls outside traditional points of entry.
The NC Business Leadership Network’s Executive Director, Beth Butler ended the day with an invitation encouraging all employers interested in increasing employment opportunities for the over 750,000 North Carolinian’s with disabilities to become a member/sponsor and join us as we continue this important work of disability inclusion across NC.