Remarks by: Johnny J. Butler, Secretary
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
"Recognition Breakfast"
Bender Consulting Services, Inc. and Highmark, Inc.
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Today, I would like to talk with you, for a few moments about two closely related matters. One, the importance of hiring persons with disabilities. Two, express gratitude, on behalf of Governor Mark Schweiker and myself for the work of corporate citizens in general, and Bender Consulting Services, Inc. and Highmark, Inc. in particular, for employing people with disabilities.

The context for my remarks today, flow from two observations by Governor Mark Schweiker. He frequently reminds us that he is the only governor, that is a governor as a direct result of the events of "9-11." Additionally, he has always talked about the need for us to "create, in Pennsylvania, a culture of innovation and excellence."

What is the relevance of "9-11," on the one hand, and "a culture of innovation and excellence," on the other hand, to the unique partnership between Bender Consulting Services and Highmark that is "creating competitive employment opportunities for all people with abilities"?

Well, the events of "9-11" should remind all of us that we share a "mutuality of dependence," or as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King describes it - an "interrelated structure of reality." More specifically, Dr. King stated:

All [people] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. [ Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, p.7 (1980)]

On "9-11" America was attacked, as well as all persons and things identified with America. If that does not highlight the notion of "mutuality," I don't know what does.

With respect to the Governor's views respecting the need for "a culture of innovation and excellence," consider the four "human capital" challenges -- that we face as a people:

Competitiveness.

Education in general, and workforce development in particular.

Skills mismatch.

Globalization and technology.

I should add, almost parenthetically, that the way we address these four challenges also answers the rhetorical question, "Why hire persons with disabilities"? Obviously, the hiring of persons with disabilities helps us to deal with these four challenges, as much as, and in many respects, more so, than hiring able-bodied persons. One simple statistic highlights my point. There are over 12 million persons in America, and 600,000 in Pennsylvania, with disabilities. Approximately 70% of these persons are unemployed. This is an incredible applicant pool, which is not being utilized. What about the four challenges? With respect to competitives, all workers need to be the best that they can be, and the best of the best. With respect to education, the greatest equalizer of all times, we need to do a better job of educating people as it relates to literacy, and as it relates to the world of work. The worlds of education and the worlds of work can no longer be worlds apart.

With respect to skills mismatch, all workforce development activities must be prepared to answer the question in the minds of all students: "Teacher/instructor, where will I ever use what you are teaching me"? The focus must be on real jobs, for there is a tremendous mismatch between the skill-sets that employers want and need in workers, and the skill-sets job seekers are bringing to the workplaces.

With respect to globalization - the integration of the world's economies, and with respect to technology, particularly information technology, we must confront the reality of same. There is both a positive and a negative reality. We must be "distinct or we will be extinct."

To reiterate, persons with disability can help us to deal with each of these four challenges. In that regard, we merely need to remember four aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990:

Nondiscrimination against persons with disabilities;

The position management, personnel classification concept of "essential function" of a job;

"Qualified individual with a disability" (QIWD);

Reasonable accommodation.

Please also note, the focus of the Governor's Committee on the Employment of Persons with Disability: "Dignity - Equality - Independence, through employment." These important values highlight workplace "freedom." I conclude my remarks today, with an excerpt of a message from Elaine L. Chao, Secretary, U. S. Department of Labor:

As Secretary of Labor, my job is to help the American workforce meet the challenges of the 21st century economy. Helping to integrate Americans with disabilities into the mainstream of our economy is an important part of the Department's approach to meeting that imperative. [U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy, Educational Kit 2001 - Win With Ability, "A Message from U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao."]

Obviously, Bender Consulting Services and Highmark share Secretary Chao's vision respecting the American workforce, and the integration of Americans with disabilities into the mainstream of our economy.

Congratulations all, and Godspeed!

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