Upstate Biz: “Hire Me SC” campaign changing culture of disability employment

Karl Hoecke standing outside the Riverbanks Zoo, where he works.

August 2, 2019

South Carolina’s unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is one of the highest in the country — leaving a largely untapped, capable pool of talent for businesses across a diverse range of industries.

In response, a statewide coalition of government, nonprofit and other entities created Hire Me SC, a groundbreaking campaign to change the culture of disability employment in South Carolina, with a current focus in the Upstate.

Now in its second year, the campaign drives job seekers with disabilities, service providers, educators and employers to the Hire Me SC website, http://www.hiremesc.org, where they can find vital information, job training programs, resources to help navigate the hiring process and more.

“There is a remarkable workforce right here, ready to be hired,” says Kimberly Tissot, executive director of Able South Carolina. “In many cases, even the simplest accommodation on the side of the employer will open up a door they never knew existed.”

Hire Me SC advocates for a successful, inclusive employment model for everyone within a community, bridging the existing employment gap through the following means, and more:

• Educate the general community on current barriers to employment.
• Connect individuals with disabilities, employers, service providers, and educators with the resources and services most valuable to them.
• Provide a platform for the general public to advocate for policy change.
• Host numerous awareness events (workshops and summits) throughout the year.

“The impact Hire Me SC has had on our communities thus far has been tremendous,” Tissot says. “As we continue to spread awareness statewide, we strive to shift the landscape in South Carolina to one in which employment for every individual, disability or not, is the norm rather than the exception.”

The campaign launched in 2018 with a new website; numerous regional awareness events; printed materials; billboards; digital advertising; an engaging social media campaign and more.

The primary focus of the Hire Me SC campaign in 2019 is to reinforce the message among employers that hiring an individual with a disability means hiring a capable and dedicated employee. This is conveyed through digital advertising on social media and online that targets business professionals and employers across the state of South Carolina. In addition, print collateral and email newsletters help extend the campaign’s message to employers statewide.

“Our message is simple,” Tissot says. “Individuals with disabilities deserve a chance at jobs where they are paid minimum wage or higher, at a comparable rate to coworkers without disabilities. Tapping into this unexposed workforce as an employer can and will help your business, and community, thrive.”

Statewide Employer Summit Set for Oct. 2, 2019
Employers and HR directors will have an opportunity to learn firsthand about the benefits of mobilizing this untapped workforce at the Hire Me SC Employer Summit on Oct. 2, 2019, at The Palmetto Club in Columbia, S.C., from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is open to all employers in the state and will connect them to the resources they need for including people with disabilities in their workplace. Employers can register at https://www.hiremesc.org/employer-summit.

Campaign Backstory
The Hire Me SC statewide outreach campaign was created thanks to a five-year federal grant secured by Able South Carolina and the South Carolina Disability Employment Coalition (SCDEC), which includes stakeholders ranging from South Carolina employers, to state and private agencies, to individuals with disabilities. Entitled the South Carolina Employment First Initiative (SCEFI), the grant is made possible through funding by the Administration for Community Living at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Able South Carolina was the first and only Center for Independent Living and disability-run organization to be awarded this honor. Prior to September 2016, grants of this type had mainly been awarded to teams within state agencies.

“We are so thankful to be awarded this grant and for all our partners in the Hire Me SC rollout,” Tissot says. “We are overwhelmed by the positive response so far, and I am optimistic that this campaign will continue to change the lives of so many moving forward.”

Learn more about Hire Me SC by visiting http://www.hiremesc.org, calling 800-681-7715, or e-mailing hiremesc@able-sc.org. Letters may be addressed to Hire Me SC at Able South Carolina, 720 Gracern Road, Suite 106, Columbia, S.C., 29210.

 

About Hire Me SC

People with disabilities can work, want to work, and should be afforded every opportunity to work. Powered by Able South Carolina and the South Carolina Disability Employment Coalition (SCDEC, a coalition formed to eliminate employment barriers for individuals with disabilities), Hire Me SC is a campaign that promotes a culture of inclusion across the state of South Carolina, one in which employment for every individual, disability or not, is the norm rather than the exception. Learn more at http://www.hiremesc.org.

 

About Able South Carolina

As a Center for Independent Living that is grounded in the disability rights movement and run and operated by a majority of individuals with disabilities, we are united in the belief that community-based, integrated employment for individuals with all types of disabilities should be the only option when it comes to employment. Individuals with disabilities CAN work and should have the freedom, support, and opportunity to achieve competitive, integrated employment.

We advocate for systems where funding for employment programs shifts away from sheltered workshops and other non-competitive employment and moves toward a system that promotes equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, regardless of the significance of the disability. Learn more at http://www.able-sc.org.

Able SC