Since launching the Key Training Center Supported Employment program, the Key Training Center has assisted nearly 100 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to obtain gainful employment in Citrus County.

"Every October, we focus on the importance and diversity of our disabled workers,” said Melissa Walker, Key Training Center (KTC) executive director, noting October is National Disability Awareness Month. “About one in four people in the U.S. have a disability, and this diverse group is reliable, productive, and able to contribute to our nation's success. This year's theme, America's Recovery Powered by Inclusion, “really hits home.”

"With the shortage in the workforce seen throughout the nation, employers are more than willing to hire our individuals to fill the gap,” said Barbara Branch, KTC day services director. “We've seen a substantial rise in requests for the qualified labor force we can provide."

According to U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, the national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities. Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation's success and are more critical today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.

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From WaWa, the Cove, to the Citrus County Sheriff's office, you'll find persons with disabilities employed. Studies conducted on this population have consistently reflected that they have higher performance ratings in safety than non-disabled employees, outperform others, drive profitability and shareholder returns, and fill high turnover positions. However, economic studies highlight that adults with I/DD have greater unemployment levels than those without disabilities.

"We're working hard to reduce this disparity," said Walker. “The supports we provide for persons with I/DD are increasing their employment possibilities. Gaining long-term positions and integrated employment through job skills training are at the forefront of the department's goals."

The KTC's Supported Employment will be host an open mentoring day Wednesday, October 20, to give employers the ability to interact with individuals with I/DD and explore job opportunities.

For information, call Bethany Carpenter at 352-794-5541, ext. 117, to learn more.