“Where can I find qualified applicants with disabilities?”
Many employers tell us that one of the greatest barriers they face in hiring people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities, is the inability to find qualified candidates. That’s where effective outreach and recruitment strategies come in, which are essential to ensuring that your workforce includes qualified individuals with disabilities.
Building relationships with disability and workforce development service providers, such as state vocational rehabilitation agencies, American Job Centers, Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and other community-based organizations, is key in helping you source candidates. These service providers can connect businesses with job seekers with disabilities directly or provide access to candidate databases. With a strong local focus, they also can assist in identifying and training individuals for specific workforce needs.
Partnerships can be particularly beneficial for federal contractors seeking to proactively recruit people with disabilities and veterans in order to meet their goals under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).
Relationships with service providers can be formed through formal partnerships (, i.e., signed agreements outlining expectations from both parties) and/or informal interactions ( i.e., meetings, exchange of contact information and staffing needs, and ongoing contact regarding job openings and candidates). Regardless of what form they take, the investment is well worth the effort. Companies can not only increase access to talent that they otherwise may have overlooked, but also benefit from other supports that can assist in effectively bringing people with disabilities on board—and ensuring their success for years to come.
Dinah Cohen, EARN employment specialist, helps employers understand the benefits of partnering with service providers to build a pipeline of qualified job candidates with disabilities.
When considering a potential partnership, employers should assess whether the organization:
- Is geographically located near employment sites.
- Has candidates who are trained for the position the company typically recruits for.
- Has the ability to post jobs in a manner that will attract qualified candidates.
- Has the ability to provide reasonable accommodation consultation and assistance.
- Is a mandated partner related to federal contractor status.
- Has the ability to provide resources for assistive technology procurement.
- Has the ability to provide consistent applicant flow and referral tracking data.
- Has the potential to develop training and resources for the employer.
- Has the ability to offer a central point of contact for referrals in multiple locations, as needed.
- Can offer a diverse variety of job candidates with different skills and qualifications, open to people with various types of disabilities, and different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Resources to Assist
Maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Disability and Veterans Community Resources Directory provides a list of organizations that can assist with training, recruiting and hiring people with disabilities and veterans. Although developed to assist federal contractors in meeting their requirements under Section 503 and VEVRAA, the directory can be used by any employer seeking to form partnerships to increase disability inclusion.
American Job Centers (AJCs) centralize local employment and training services under one roof to help people both with and without disabilities prepare for and obtain employment. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and overseen by regional Workforce Investment Boards, AJCs also help businesses recruit job candidates and can be valuable partners to employers interested in diversifying their workforce with qualified people with disabilities.
A Center for Independent Living (CIL) is a community-based, cross-disability nonprofit agency operated by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. CILs provide an array of services, including those related to employment. They can be effective partners to employers seeking to recruit people with disabilities and advise on employment supports, such as transportation and technology, that may impact an employer’s ability to hire, retain and advance people with disabilities.
An Employment Network (EN) is a private organization or public agency that has agreed to provide employment services, vocational rehabilitation services and other types of support to beneficiaries with disabilities under the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work Program. Employers can contact one or more ENs in their area to let them know they are interested in employing people with disabilities and discuss the skills they need.
The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation/National Employment Team (NET) is a nationwide network of business consultants that serve as employers’ points of contact for vocational rehabilitation (VR), the primary system of services and resources that specifically addresses the employment needs of individuals with disabilities. The NET specializes in serving VR agencies’ business customers, working to ensure their workforce needs and expectations are understood and met.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service (VR&E) helps employers across the country fill workforce needs with trained, educated and experienced disabled veterans. VR&E provides recruitment assistance based on employers’ specific qualification requirements, and candidates are skilled and pre-screened. Through the service, employers can also get resources to assist with recruitment, retention and strategies for developing new leadership.