Grant helping train disabled for in-demand jobs

Disabled face disproportionate unemployment

PINELLAS CO., Fla. - Studies show only 30 percent of disabled persons are employed in Florida, leaving more than 700,000 people capable and willing to work without a job. Now, there's a new free program helping to train those with disabilities to fill in-demand jobs.

Jesse Lafferty is learning the tools of the construction trade. Having those skills under his belt are now giving him hope for a brighter future. That's because Jesse lives with PTSD so severe it's left him unemployed for the over a year.

"There was no future. There was no light at the end of the tunnel," said Lafferty. After completing the one month construction trades class at CareerSource this fall, he landed a job in the industry within a week.  

"Now I have a reason to get up, and it really helps me focus on my next step in life, my goals instead of my past," said Lafferty. Thanks to a $250,000 three year grant from the Able Trust, CareerSource will be able to help dozens more people like Jesse Lafferty, who have physical or mental disabilities.  

"There's just a ton of talent out there. The biggest barrier they have to overcome is misperceptions in the business community of what they're capable of," said Susanne Homant, president of the Able Trust.  

But because of the low unemployment rates, more employers are now willing to give jobs to any qualified worker.

"Don't just treat this as a program for disabilities. We have people with unique abilities that need a place in our workforce," said Dick Peck, CEO of QTM, Inc., a Pinellas Co. manufacturer.  

Anyone with disabilities can apply to take several manufacturing trade classes through CareerSource's training center at the St. Pete Science Center.  

"Our goal is always to cater to what our employers need. This helps us train people for these positions, while overcoming the barriers employees might face," said Ed Peachey, CareerSource Tampa Bay CEO.  

"If it helped me, and I was stuck in the same old, same old and not wanting to do anything, didn't want to socialize or anything, I'd look into this program. They will help you," said Lafferty.

And in just a few short weeks, you can complete a training program and be on the way to a rewarding career.

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