During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, MDI is saluting people who’ve stepped ahead, above and beyond in the name of equitable opportunity and employment for people with disabilities.
DPI is a nonprofit staffing agency that was started to help people with disabilities, and in the last five years we’ve expanded to also helping people with barriers to employment like housing instability, English as a second language, or managing the unique challenges facing military veterans. We’ve been around for about 50 years in this space, so we have a lot of experience connecting with people who want to work with customers with fluctuating employee needs.
We started working with MDI in Minneapolis when they were trying to find ways to mitigate hiring surges due to the ebb and flow of a key customer. Now DPI has expanded to support other customers in the Twin Cities as well as MDI and other customers in northern Minnesota. Our job is to place individuals in the right jobs and to help people understand that we’re not just a typical staffing agency—we have a mission and we’re putting our money where our mouth is. Our model is not transactional—we are with our associates every step of the way to make sure we find the right job match for each individual. I advocate for my people and help them get a foot in the door.
“We want to open everyone’s eyes to a workforce that just needs a chance.”
A big part of my job is education. We teach employers to create a little flexibility on their end—that’s all our associates need.
For instance, the challenges to getting a job might not be what you’d expect—if a person no longer drives due to a disability, getting to an interview can be a challenge. Transportation is one of the barriers we see on a regular basis. Or maybe a person needs to work less than 40 hours a week, needs to be able to sit a little bit during their shift, or needs to work remote if they are immunocompromised. Once an organization can think outside the box and find a solution where a person can successfully and safely do the job and be happy at it, everybody wins.
My personal mission in my work—and how I get joy out of my job—is not only talking about our mission but getting to know the people I’m working to place on assignment. I want to learn what they’re passionate about outside of work, like how many Doberman pinschers they have (so far, the record is four!) or what football team they cheer for. I can then help them find greater success in their assignment because I know them, I know what works for them, and I know what leadership style they will thrive under. I make sure I partner with organizations where I can feel good about their culture and how it will integrate people with (and without) disabilities.
There’s a common misconception amongst people looking for jobs that working with a staffing agency is a dead end or only short term. I want working with DPI to be a foot in the door with an organization that might want you to be a permanent employee someday—that’s my goal for each person I work with. I want to create a chance for you to show you’re a great worker, you show up on time, you’ve got a great attitude, you bring something special to the team. Even though a company might not have it in their budget to bring on a permanent employee right now, the opportunity is great in that you’ve already proven yourself. In the disability community, that chance makes all the difference.