Teaming Up to Increase Employment of Persons with Disabilities: Kirtland Air Force Base and the New Mexico Business Leadership Network
As with all Federal agencies, Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) is mandated to monitor and develop its Equal Opportunity Program for optimal diversity and demographic representation in its workforce. In 2009 a conscientious and astute EO Director saw the need to increase KAFB’s outreach to recruit qualified employees with disabilities and developed a relationship with the New Mexico Business Leadership Network (NMBLN) to assist in these efforts. With the President’s signing of Executive Order 13548 Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in 2010, the emphasis on developing a comprehensive strategic hiring plan was established. The Team Kirtland Plan to Increase Employment of Persons with Disabilities, an articulated five-strategy action plan was created in response in collaboration with KAFB’s newly formed Disability Advisory Working Group (DAWG).
Located in Albuquerque, NM, Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) has been an important employment, defense and research powerhouse in the state since its establishment in 1941. Kirtland’s mission is to fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace. Today, there are 25,468 people employed by Kirtland, including over 11,000 individuals who work in non-federal and civilian contractor positions. The 377th Air Base Wing is the host organization for KAFB, supporting more than 200 tenant organizations, representing both military and civilian workforces.
The official launch of KAFB’s Strategic Hiring Plan was in February 2011 in Albuquerque. The event drew over 90 attendees from the disability community and contributed greatly to increasing public relations and positive outreach for KAFB’s hiring efforts. It also solidified the value and utility of the DAWG which has begun meeting on a quarterly basis under the advisement and leadership of KAFB’s Affirmative Employment Manager in partnership with the Chief of Recruitment for Civilian Personnel.
In addition to job seekers with disabilities and area service providers, invitees also included the Federal Executive Board leadership who took part in the concurrent employment workshops and conducted mock interviews. This interaction resulted in an increase in job applications to the Base and other Federal agencies, and more significantly, in an open door policy for both job seekers and service providers to seek guidance from Federal hiring representatives. The event also contributed to the development of new relationships and better understanding of the federal application process, including the Schedule A Hiring Authority.
As an out-growth of the Strategic Hiring Plan and the work of the DAWG, a pilot project for establishing a disability-focused Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Kirtland was launched in the spring of 2011. Over the course of a year Kirtland experienced significant internal enthusiasm and collaboration for this effort. The Kirtland Inclusion Team, coined “KIT”, is led by core leadership representing Safety, Budget and Finance, IT, Architecture/Facilities Management, Wounded Warriors Program, and others. Additionally, the KAFB EO Office and Civilian Personnel formed a cohesive ERG steering committee with three distinct yet dovetailed subcommittees to further the Hiring Plan’s objectives, with recruitment and retention leading the charge under its Office of Personnel-led Hiring and Retention Subcommittee. Today, KIT is quickly becoming the base’s critical recruitment tool and a conduit for a more informed, inclusive, and productive team focusing on employee relations and barrier removal. In less than a year, the KIT ERG has already broken down several communication barriers between departments and leadership, streamlined accommodation request protocols, and has established an invigorated, collaborative approach to solving both social and physical workplace barriers that has shown a positive impact on both cost and time variables for all departments involved.
The KIT Hiring and Retention Subcommittee is chaired by the Recruitment Chief of Civilian Personnel, and includes two Staffing Specialists, an Employee Relations Specialist, and the Wounded Warriors Program Manager. They have developed an in-house database of Schedule A applicants for hiring managers to review prior to the public posting on USAJobs. They utilize the KIT as a forum for disseminating Schedule A trainings and application procedures, and for conducting community outreach to job seekers with disabilities. The committee also relays DAWG updates and event information back to the KIT ERG steering committee for internal promotion of community activities, resources and opportunities for the KAFB workforce.
The KIT intranet site, which lists valuable disability-related resources and KIT-sponsored events, is promoted to hiring managers by the Hiring and Retention Subcommittee. This is a critical element in the Personnel Office’s toolkit to educate and inform hiring managers on important policies and initiatives. Ultimately, this tool will become even more critical as future plans include the expansion of the manager-accessible database of Schedule A jobseekers utilizing the KIT Committee’s growing intranet.