Career skills training offered to people with disabilities

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Career skills training offered to people with disabilities

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MDI is offering career skills training to its employees and other people with disabilities. The training focuses on professional skill development including a positive attitude, teamwork, receiving constructive criticism, work ethic, communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, time management, flexibility and self-confidence.

MDI is a non-profit manufacturer of standard and custom corrugated plastic as well as a provider of assembly and environmental services. For over 50 years, MDI has provided meaningful employment in an inclusive environment with nearly half of its 400 employees being people with disabilities. It has four locations throughout Minnesota including Cohasset, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Minneapolis. MDI also provides job placement assistance to help people with disabilities secure employment at area businesses that pay a competitive wage.

The work skills training program was originally launched in 2017, and 100 MDI employees and community members successfully completed it to date. Through a partnership with Advanced Minnesota, training is open to MDI employees, members of the public, and area high school students with disabilities who are approaching graduation and in need of assistance with transition to employment. An additional 80 people are expected to complete the training this year to gain enhanced skills for successful job performance and placement.

"Job openings across the region are rapidly increasing, and people with disabilities are an underutilized talent source that can help meet the workforce shortage," said Gail Anderson of Advanced Minnesota. "People with disabilities are employed at rates lower than any other group in the state and face some of the highest poverty rates."

The unemployment rate in Minnesota was 3.3% as of May 2019; however, employment trends and historical data suggest that it is likely more than double that among the disabled population. (Sources: DEED, American Community Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

"We are very pleased to partner with MDI to create better employment opportunities and expanded curriculum for all sectors of the workforce," said Anderson. "For the disabled population in northeastern Minnesota, gainful employment means independence, responsibility, and well-earned pride."

MDI employee Del explained: "People treat me differently when they see the surgery scars on my head, yet I am still the same person inside. I didn't even know a place like MDI existed. Together we work as a team getting product out the door, and that is important to me. For my kids, they see Dad is working again and thriving. The last thing I want them to think is Dad has a brain injury and is unable to move beyond it."

Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation supported this program with a Workforce Development grant through taxes paid by Minnesota's mining industry. Other program partners include Advanced Minnesota, Northeast Higher Education District, Otto Bremer Trust, Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training, Northland Foundation, Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and Enbridge. Email Jeanne Eglinton or call her at 651-999-8283 to learn more about the training.

Pictured above are employees at MDI's Grand Rapids and Hibbing operations. 

Source: IRRRB "The Ranger" newsletter, access on 7/15/2019, published on 7/10/2019. Full newsletter here.