Recently, I was attending a community gathering for an initiative of the City of Kalamazoo called Shared Prosperity. One of the focuses of this initiative is employment, particularly for people coming out of prisons. As I was listening to the speakers who are local employers talk about their commitment to employing people who may have barriers in the whole application, interview and hiring process someone used the phrase “Getting to the Porcupine’s Belly.” Meaning that when we get past these barriers, often the people who have the most difficult time finding employment are the best employees. This seemed to very much parallel what we experience in the Community Brokering Process when we are supporting people with disabilities to find employment. The application, interview and hiring process can have many thorny, spiny and sharp places that can be barriers in the path to jobs for people with disabilities. However, when we get past these places people with disabilities are wonderful employees.
Through the Community Broker Process we discover the unique interests, gifts and talents of the people we work with that help us find the “Porcupine’s Belly.” The soft places that offer possibilities for employment. Also, as we navigate the hiring process we are starting to find employers that are willing to make accommodations in the hiring process so that people with disabilities are able to demonstrate their job skills. They are willing to remove some of the things that might be like porcupine quills that get in the way of finding an employee who may be the just right fit for a job.
In Kalamazoo, there seems to be an atmosphere of as expanding willingness for businesses and organizations to welcome and support people with disabilities as volunteers and participants. Now we just need to continue that expansion in the area of employment. Perhaps we can flip the Porcupine over more quickly to find that soft belly and make more opportunities available for people with disabilities.
If you are a business owner do you have jobs that need to be done that you are having trouble finding that just right employee who will be committed, dedicated and capable? Contact The Arcadia Institute at www.thearcadiainstitute.org or 269-254-8224!