Many federal contractors still struggle with making good faith efforts to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities (IWD). As a part of their Affirmative Action obligations, contractors must undertake appropriate outreach and positive recruitment activities that are designed to effectively recruit qualified individuals with disabilities. Here are five proactive recruitment and hiring practices for federal contractors to consider.
- Enlist support from state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, local Social Security Administration (SSA) Employment Networks (ENs), local disability groups, and placement or career offices of educational institutions that specialize in the placement of individuals with disabilities.
For example, a federal contractor in the Philadelphia area successfully partnered with a non-profit provider of vocational and rehabilitation services for intellectually disabled individuals, Developmental Enterprises Corporation (DEC). Through their Employment Services Division this organization provides community-based work assessments and job development to assist individuals in finding jobs in the community and hands-on job coaching once individuals are hired.
The contractor and the vocational rehabilitation organization worked together to evaluate the work environment, and the tasks and skills needed to perform the job. This allowed for the identification of individuals who could be successful working in these jobs.
The contractor found that spending this bit of quality time, up front, really paid off with a pipeline of qualified candidates when it came time to fill their positions.
- Develop work-study programs for students, trainees, or interns with disabilities. This same federal contractor also created a trainee version of their job and hired a coach who could help train individuals so that they were ready for fulltime work when the opportunity arises.
- Incorporate special efforts to reach students by recruiting at educational institutions. Institutions of higher education offer career services, and some even career services with a focus on individuals with disabilities that contractors can partner with for direct referrals or career fairs. For example, Gallaudet University in Washington DC, a school whose mission is to empower deaf and hard of hearing students, has a career center for employers to recruit Gallaudet students and alumni for internships and jobs within their organization.
- Take other positive steps to attract individuals with disabilities not currently in the workforce who have requisite skills and can be recruited through affirmative action measures.
Once employed, ensuring people with disabilities have access to professional development opportunities and providing performance feedback is necessary to retain individuals and provide opportunities for advancement into higher level job openings. Also, current employees are the best ambassadors for recruiting future staff. If employees believe their employer has an inclusive accessible work environment they can provide positive word of mouth that will then spread to their family and friends with disabilities.
- In making hiring decisions, consider applicants who are known to have disabilities for all available positions for which they may be qualified but did not apply.
If your company accepts unsolicited resumes/applications, considering a person with a disability for any currently available open positions allows you to increase the probability of hiring an individual with a disability. We recommend seeking advice from counsel on how to best introduce this type of practice into your organization. There are special considerations that you’ll need to work through to properly track these applicants in all the open requisitions for which they are considered.
There are lots of great resources available to assist contractors meet their goal of equal employment and affirmative action for individuals with disabilities. The OFCCP lists some of these resources on their website.
Remember when creating a plan to attract and hire individuals with a disability, the best place to start is at the beginning.