Each of us probably owes a debt of gratitude to a mentor. Someone who helped us along the way to “make our way” in the world while we were trying to figure out what we really wanted to be when we grew up. Most of us have probably advanced our careers in some way because of something we learned from a mentoring relationship. That, plus the hands-on experience we got in our first jobs provided a first look at possible careers. Here at the University of Delaware, some young people are planning their own careers and taking a day to meet some of their own potential mentors – people they look up to now and may one day look back on and say “wow, that person really taught me a valuable lesson that still sticks with me.”
So, I congratulate the young people here and the employers who decided to help these young people learn how to better prepare for the world of work. Employers care about skills – about ability. That’s why this Mentoring Day is important– it’s focused specifically on young people with disabilities – For far too long, individuals with disabilities have been excluded from opportunities like this – to get job mentors and coaches and find forums that promote career development and help with job shadowing and career exploration. Employers are now seeing that people with disabilities represent an overlooked talent pool.
As Chair of the National Governor’s Association, I chose for my special initiative over this next year: Employing People with Disabilities. I am passionate about this topic. Everyone who wants to work should be able to do so. I am fighting for jobs for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you were born with additional challenges or – in the case of our wounded veterans – you acquired them later in life. What matters is what you have to offer. There are roles government and businesses – and academia – can play to advance opportunities for people with disabilities in the competitive labor market.
Now, more than ever, our nation’s competitiveness relies on utilizing our full potential. Everyone’s full potential. That’s the only thing that will truly keep all of us, our state and our nation, moving forward.