- Employers can’t find qualified job candidates disabilities.
- Job candidates with disabilities are often overlooked in on-campus interviews with employers that are organized by career services staff.
- Those students with disabilities who happen to land a job interview are often unprepared to effectively show why they are qualified for a specific job.
The three statements above are not my suppositions. For students with a disability, they have been a stubborn reality for four decades since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Consider this finding. According to the National Council on Disability’s 2008 study, “Achieving Independence: The Challenge of the 21st Century,” the most commonly cited reason among employers for not hiring people with disabilities is a “lack of qualified applicants.”
Doesn’t Have to Be the Case
I’d like to show why “not finding candidates with disabilities who are qualified” just does not have to be the case in this second decade of the 21st Century. The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) today is paving the way to brighter employment prospects for thousands of college students with a disability and access to new (and qualified) emerging talent for hundreds of employers across the U.S.
In fact, since 1995, the WRP has provided employment opportunities for over 6,000 students with a disability, according to Kathleen Lee, business outreach specialist, Cornell University.
As a recruitment and referral initiative, the WRP connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated postsecondary students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.
The WRP is co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the U.S. Department of Defense with the participation of many other federal agencies and sub-agencies,
The WRP annually recruits and selects more than 2,000 undergrad, graduate, doctorial and law students with disabilities on nearly 300 college campuses for a database it makes available to federal, state and private employers.
About 600 of those candidates are either hired as interns or for full-time employment each year.
What You Need to Do
Do you want to get on WRP’s 2016 database? Now is the time to start planning for the steps you need to take during the next nine months. Here are the things you need to know.
First, to participate in WRP, you must be at least 18 years old and submit an online resume to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network (EARN). Your campus needs to have at least eight students with a disability must apply for WRP before a recruiter begins interviewing.
To be eligible for the WRP, candidates must be current, full-time undergraduate or graduate students with a disability, or have graduated within one year of the release of the database each December. For the 2016 WRP release, interviews will be held in the fall of 2015. Candidates must be U.S. citizens.
Second, contact the Disability Student Service (DSS) career counselor on your campus to make sure your school is a WRP participant.
Third, to become a part of the 2016 database, apply online at www.wrp.gov in August 2015 so you can participate in the DSS training sessions on campus and meet with a disability trained recruiter during October and November.
Candidates who qualify for the database are contacted by EARN. The database is launched in December, and employers who complete an online request form can recruit students between December, 2015, and July, 2016.
Fourth, candidates who become eligible for the database usually do well in both written and oral communication during interviews by a recruiter who understands disability employment issues.
Using a rating of 1 to 5, a recruiter evaluates each student applicant in terms of qualifications (based on transcripts, resume and experience), maturity, written and oral communication (the “biggie”) and direction as well as an overall score. You must score 3.0 or better in the overall rating to be eligible for the database.
Advantages for Both
Cornell’s Lee says the WRP offers advantages to both jobseekers and employers during the recruitment process.
Jobseekers, for instance, get the support they may need to present themselves effectively during the database selection process. They are able to interview with a recruiter who understands disability. They are part of a recruitment process that offers a “level” playing field that engages employers who actively seeking job candidates with disabilities.
And employers feel more confident that they are interviewing highly qualified students with disabilities as part of their overall recruitment strategies and that they have access to emerging talent. They have an opportunity to assess whether particular candidates are the “right fit” for their companies through an internship experience.
When I graduated from college in 1965, career counseling at the University of Wisconsin- Madison did not exist as we know it today. My academic advisor candidly said that, yes, indeed, he thought I could hold a job, despite the fact I had cerebral palsy and walked and talked with difficulty. He recommended I apply for state government work, even though the economy and job prospects in the private sector were quite bright and my classmates were getting good paying jobs in the private sector.
That was the extent of career counseling back then.
Please take full advantage of the expanded opportunities you now have through WRP as an about-to-graduate or recent grad or grad student to fully participate in the mainstream workplace.
Copyright © 2014. Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC. All rights reserved.
Jim Hasse (www.jimhasse.com), Global Career Development Facilitator, has compiled and edited the recommendations of HR experts and the personal observations of both jobseekers and hiring managers into Perfectly Able: How to Attract and Hire Talented People with Disabilities (www.perfectlyable.com/), a comprehensive disability recruitment guidebook for hiring managers published by AMACOM (September 2010), the publishing arm of the American Management Association. He’s the founder of www.cerebral-palsy-career-builders.com, a comprehensive career coaching guide for parents of youngsters with cerebral palsy, and owner of Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, which develops win-win direct mail fundraisers for champions of disability employment.