As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal government has an obligation to model effective employment policies and practices that advance America’s ideal of equal opportunity for all. I’m delighted that the government is moving toward becoming this kind of model employer thanks, in large part, to an important directive from President Obama.
In July 2010, the President marked the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by signing Executive Order 13548. The EO has set a goal of employing an additional 100,000 Federal workers with disabilities over the next five years, which is a welcome development given the state of the current Federal workforce. Individuals with disabilities represent just over 5 percent of the nearly 2.5 million people in the Federal workforce, and individuals with targeted disabilities represent less than 1 percent.
All Federal agencies have a role to play in implementing the Executive Order. In a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry recently unveiled a variety of tools and resources available to help fulfill this responsibility.
The first of these resources is called eFedLink.org. My agency, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, launched this online community of practice to help Federal employment professionals share policies and best practices related to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Federal government workforce. It’s an interactive platform that features online tools to help users connect and collaborate with other Federal human resource professionals, disability program managers and selective placement program coordinators across the nation.
Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is an exceptional way to infuse disability into the Federal workforce—today and for years to come. Coordinated by ODEP and the U.S. Department of Defense, WRP connects Federal and private sector employers with qualified and pre-screened postsecondary students and recent college graduates with disabilities eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer internships or permanent jobs. The WRP database contains profiles of over 2,600 job candidates from more than 270 colleges and universities nationwide, representing all academic backgrounds.
The best thing about the program is hearing the success stories of WRP participants who secure internships and permanent positions, like Ann Kaufmann. Kaufmann, who has attention deficit disorder, excelled in undergraduate studies and law school, however she applied for a number of jobs without success. Then she entered the WRP, which ultimately led to a position as the disability program manager for the Customs and Border Protection agency. Kaufmann says her goal now is “to pay it forward and help other people with disabilities succeed.”
Shared List of People with Disabilities
Finally, Federal hiring managers often tell me they don’t know where to find qualified job candidates with disabilities. Well, that’s no longer an excuse. I’m happy to report that the Chief Human Capital Officers Council has partnered with Bender Consulting Services to provide a list of hundreds of candidates with disabilities who are eligible to be hired through Schedule A – a noncompetitive hiring authority for individuals with disabilities. This Shared List of People with Disabilities is available now on the MAX Federal Community online portal. Federal human resource personnel can also use this online community to share best practices and exchange information about disability hiring.
I am proud to be one of the many thousands of people with disabilities who benefit from the Federal workforce every day. But just think what thousands more of these talented individuals can do as public servants. By leveraging eFedLink.org, the Workforce Recruitment Program and the Shared List of People with Disabilities, Federal agencies can help us achieve this goal.
Kathleen Martinez is the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.