I had the pleasure to be interviewed by the Business Examiner. Here is the content of the article.
Don Hayden, CIO and Jim Larson CEO
April 2, 2012
Jim Larson, a native Seattleite and Western Washington University graduate, has devoted his career to helping people with disabilities find work throughout the Northwest. Included in this experience is a decade he spent in Ellensburg creating a community-based mobile crew, and three years in McMinnville, Ore., facilitating a manufacturing and residential program for people with disabilities. In 1994, he was elected chair of the Rehabilitation Enterprise of Washington committee. Larson served on the state’s Rehabilitation Council from 1995 to 2000 and the Special Education Advisory committee from 1999 to 2001. Currently, he’s a member of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, and serves on the board of the Cascades Camp and Conference Center. He is president of Morningside, an employment services company in Olympia that helps people with disabilities find jobs.
What is different about Morningside’s services than those of other job-placement companies?
Morningside is a public benefit corporation whose mission is to “advance the employment and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.” Our customers who we help find employment all have a disability. We serve a wide range of clients with different types of disabilities, but our largest clientele base includes those with intellectual disabilities. Also, although clients are referred to us from a variety of places, the majority are referred from school districts and two state agencies: Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and Division of Developmental Disabilities.
As divergent is our clientele base is, so too are the types of companies where we find employment.
It’s a truly individualized placement program and we do cover a wide region. Our corporate center is in Olympia, and we also have offices in Centralia, Aberdeen and Port Angeles.
Which types of disabilities do you most commonly encounter?
We serve 549 individuals with disabilities in the four offices. The demographic makeup of the individuals with disabilities is as follows: 53 percent have cognitive/intellectual disabilities; 16 percent have learning disabilities; 13 percent have mental and emotional disabilities; 11 percent have physical disabilities; 4 percent have sensory disabilities; and 3 percent have another type of disability.
Not everyone who has a disability and is seeking employment needs our services. But those who need assistance in determining vocational interest or mating a job with a particular interest will find our services particularly helpful. We have employment consultants who are experts at helping individuals with disabilities chart a course that will meet their vocational goals.
What are some of the companies or types of industries where you place these employees?
The service sector is the major area where we employ individuals — as that is the largest private employment base. In Olympia, we do have a number of individuals with disabilities whom we support working in state government and school districts. However, our goal is to match the interest of the person with a disability with the right job in the community. That can take us to every sector of the job market, from manufacturing to the professional realm.
How do the services of your company benefit the local business communities?
Well, there are several advantages. Multiple studies have pointed out — and our experience finds — that our clients have lower turnover rates in entry-level positions, so the cost of continually training those types of new employees is reduced or eliminated. Initial employee training costs are also reduced because our staff assists with the initial training. We also can assist in work station modifications to assist employees in doing their job faster and easier. Diversity is certainly a factor as well because disability — as a minority — is the largest of any protected class.
Many of the jobs our clients are hired for are tailored to the needs of the business, so employers know what they are getting in terms of fulfilling a company need.
What is most enjoyable about your job?
Well, we change lives — so that is very exciting.
Everyone wants to be valued and accepted. When a person with a disability who hasn’t had opportunity now has a job — well, it is life-changing, and we get to be a part of that. Pride and personal empowerment are evident as a person is introduced to a purpose that is uplifting. Also, I work with people who are enjoyable to be with, and who are so passionate about our mission. It is great coming to work. We work very hard, but we have fun working together for a common purpose.
Any other thoughts?
Just that without the business communities’ willingness to be open and partner with us, our jobs would be impossible.
We are very appreciative of the business community.
Note: After reading the published article it occured to me that the bio they used was off our Web site and it was out of date.
CEO Viewpoint is published by Jim Larson, CEO Morningside
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