By Ellice Switzer Employer Assistance and Resource Network, Cornell University How can I find talented people with disabilities? This is a question that employers frequently ask when contacting EARN for technical assistance and support. Many employers want to capitalize on the business benefits of accessing this underutilized pool of skilled labor, and federal contractors and subcontractors are often interested in light of pending regulatory changes. The answer to this question varies depending on the employer’s goals, and can include a variety of strategies. Resources such as the Workforce Recruitment Program and American Job Centers can provide access to qualified candidates with disabilities. An additional resource employers should be aware of is the National Employment Team (NET) led by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSVAR). CSAVR is the membership organization of Vocational Rehabilitation Directors across the country, representing programs that serve approximately one million individual customers with disabilities per year. Although the national vocational rehabilitation system’s mandate is to provide employment supports for people with disabilities, the NET utilizes a dual customer model in order to meet the needs of employers in the public and private sector, including federal agencies and federal contractors. What is the NET? Developed with the input of 35 business partners, The NET’s vision is “To create a coordinated approach to serving business customers through a national VR team that specializes in employer development, business consulting and corporate relations”. Simply put, the NET helps to coordinate the vast resources of the public vocational rehabilitation (VR) system, and put those resources to work, connecting qualified candidates with disabilities to employers. The NET promotes a “dual customer” model, in which they recognize that the success of the people with disabilities that they serve depends on successful relationships with businesses. They strive to understand the needs of and support outcomes for employers. The NET has a Business Consultant or “single point of contact” for each of the 80 VR agencies in the U.S. Services are available in every state, the territories and D.C. The NET infrastructure was built with business and has the capability to serve business customers at the national, regional, state or local level. The NET was developed specifically in order to build relationships and understand the needs of businesses. When the NET assesses the needs of an employer, they strive to develop an understanding of employment needs as well as educational, training or technical assistance support required. What does the NET do for Employers? According to the Director of Business Operations at CSAVR, Kathy West-Evans, the answer to that question is as varied as the employers who reach out to the NET for assistance. Kathy assesses the individual needs of all employers who contact her, and works them to develop plan of action and connect them to the NET/VR resources they need to meet their recruitment and hiring goals. First, she helps organizations identify their staffing priorities by location, and develop a plan to connect businesses to VR Business Consultants in their footprint, other workforce partners, and community agencies. In addition to 25,000 staff, VR has a vendor network of 10,000 community agencies across the country that they contract with to provide services to individual and business customers, depending upon their needs. The NET is unique in its ability to connect nationally across state agencies and leverage the strengths of the network to deliver at the national, state or local level. Businesses can target recruitment in specific areas or nationally via the network of 80 public Vocational Rehabilitation programs across the nation. NET Business Consultants can connect businesses directly to the talent pool of candidates with disabilities in every geographic location that the employer operates, including those who would be willing to relocate for a career opportunity.